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The Mermaid's Wineglass (Acetabularia)

This algae, despite its odd look, is a single-celled organism. Its shape has fascinated scientists since its discovery in the 1800s. It was the genus used to prove that genetic information is stored in the nucleus of eukaryotes. So let's take a look at this important genus and learn more about it for ourselves.

Physical Description sand Behavior

This alga has 3 main parts, a rhizoid, a median stalk, and the apex. In other words, its roots, stalk, and cap. The rhizoid acts like roots to connect it to the ground and hold the nucleus. Its cap, which looks like a small lily pad, is used for reproduction, as well as for photosynthesis.

Their green coloration comes from the chloroplasts that are present inside of them. They can be 0.5 to 10 cm (up to 3 inches) tall but have a relatively small diameter of less than an inch.

Fun fact: This single-celled organism acts very much like a fungus when procreating. Gametes are released from cysts in the cap, creating zygotes that fall to the ground before growing into a new individual. This is very similar to show fungi grow from spores. There is only one nucleus present until they start to reproduce, which is when they multiply into many daughter cells before releasing these "spores".

Many fish and sea urchins feed on this genus, providing them a readily available food source. However, one sea slug: Elysia timida, can make use of this algae's chloroplasts after consumption. This provides the slug with nutrition during times when the algae are not available.

Habitat and Location

Acetabularia can be found in many locations around the world, including France, Greece, the Canary Islands, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Algeria, Lebanon, Israel, Cyprus, and a few other places.

They are mainly found on the rocks of shallow waters in clusters. They require water to reproduce and to keep from drying out.

To learn more about the Mermaid's Wineglass, check out this video below:

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