Prasinophyta (pra-se-NA-fa-ta) is formed from two Greek roots that mean dark green (prasinos -πράσινος); and plant (phyto -φυτό).  The reference is to the obvious color of the taxa in this phylum.  Many of these taxa are grass green, but some are dark green.



The praesinophytes comprise a collection of organisms that generally occur as unicells, but some are attached as filaments (Figures 1-4).  They occur in almost all aquatic environments.  Indeed, there is a growing realization that these might be significant contributors to marine plankton primary production (Not et al. 2004).  The motile cells usually are covered with cellulosic scales rather than a cell wall.  In some the scales are quite complex.  However, the fusion of scales in taxa like Pedinomonas might indicate how the more typical cell wall of the kingdom evolved.  

Although they are photosynthetic, most supplement their nutrition by ingesting bacteria and other organic matter, a process called mixotrophy.  Likely, the earliest members of this line were completely heterotrophic, a process by which they enslaved a chlorophyll a and b bearing Cyanobacterium to become the first photobionts.  

Until recently, the group was thought to be asexual.  However, Suda et al. (1989) demonstrated that Nephroselmis went through a sexual life history that was isogamous.  No doubt, other sexual life histories will be reported.


The system that we follow is generally based on van den Hoek et al. (1995) but informed by the work of Melkonian (i.e. Melkonian 1989, 1990; Melkonian and Surek 1995; and Sym and Pienaar 1993).  Molecular studies such as Melkonian and Surek (1995) indicate that the prasinophytes likely represent remnants of an early radiation of the "green plants".  An example is the extraordinary variation in the type of flagellar insertion (apical or lateral), some from an anterior pit (crypt?).  The arrangements of the flagellar roots are equally varied.  Some possess a multilayered structure (MLS) at the base of the flagella.  This is characteristic of most members of the Streptobionta and all of the embryophytes that produce flagellated cells.  Characters such as these confirm that the prasinophytes are artificial and paraphyletic, as remnant groups of early radiation events tend to be (Proschold and Leliaert 2007, and Turmel et al. 2009).  Indeed, the Prasinophytes could be broken into as many as four to six to nine clades (Marin and Melkonian 1999; Turmel et al. 2009 and Proschold and Leliaert 2007, respectively).  Indeed, the analysis of Proschold and Leliaert (2007) suggests that the Prasinophyta could be separated into as many 8 monophyletic groups (Figure 5).






FIGURE 5. This is an adaptation of Proschold and Leliaert (2007) in which the Prasinophyceae forms 9 different clades, many of them nested.






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By Jack R. Holt.  Last revised: 03/22/2014