This group contains the largest number of species of the division. They can have two or more flagella, near the apex of the cell. Mitosis in this class involves phycoplasts, microtubules that develop between and separate the daughter nuclei. This characteristic is not seen in any other organism, implying that no organisms have descended from this class. There are a variety of asexual and sexual reproductive techniques. Sexual reproduction is characterized by the formation of a zygospore (a dormant diploid zygote protected by a thick wall) that later undergoes meiosis.
The class includes unicellular organisms such as those in the genus Chlamydomonas with their two apical flagella and nonmotile organisms such as Chlorella, which is being cultivated for use as a dietary supplement. Colonial genera of Chlorophyceae include Hydrodictyon (the "water net") and the so-called volvocine line of flagellated specimens that range from simple colonies of Gonium to the intricate spinning spheres of Volvox, which can consist of up to 60,000 cells and exhibit some cellular specialization. The most complex of the class are the filamentous members, some of which exhibit features that are seen primarily in plants. Despite this similarity the class is not believed to have been the evolutionary source of plants.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.