When you think about algae, you may picture green pond scum. In her new book, ‘Slime,’ scientific writer, Ruth Kassinger, attempts to bring out how fascinating algae really is. It’s a big group of organisms, which is not limited to one shape, color, or size. The book details the historical role algae has played in the development of life on Earth as well as its potential impact in the planet’s future.
‘Slime’ is a book that covers the broad role played algae. Before you get to that, however, you need a better understanding of exactly what algae are. The group of organisms known as algae shows significant variation in its makeup. Together with the green pond scum we are familiar with, algae also include small organism such as cyanobacteria and larger species similar to plants such as seaweed.
The scientific classification of algae has also taken a journey of its own. Previously, these organisms were classified as plants. This made sense because species such as seaweed and kelp are very plantlike in their structure and nature. Many species of algae have chlorophyll and the ability to carry out the important process of photosynthesis, but there are many species under this grouping that have lost this ability.
Algae can be simple such as microalgae or complex and multicellular. There are over 50,000 different species now classified as algae, and these do not all share a common ancestor, which makes the classification a little more complicated.
A Timeless Role
Kassinger also makes it her mission to show algae in a new light. The role played by these organisms in the Earth’s existence is thoroughly covered. Over the billions of years that the planet has been evolving, algae are present and crucial to the advent of photosynthesis, which brought oxygen and the evolution of more complex organisms. Looking ahead, algae is also important in the quest for clean energy, better nutrition, and a solution to the global warming crisis.