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Thursday - March 12, 2009

From: Driftwood, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Name of algae on ground that swells after a rain
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

What is the name of the algae looking stuff on the ground that swells up after rain. I thought it was "nostock" but I can't locate that name anywhere. Thanks!

ANSWER:

The name you are looking for is Nostoc.  They once were called "blue-green algae"; but they aren't algae and even though they can photosynthesize their own food, they aren't plants at all—they are cyanobacteria.  They are ancient organisms, the oldest known fossils.  The chloroplasts in plants (where photosynthesis takes place) originated when eukaryotic cells (those containing nuclei—bacteria don't have nuclei) started enclosing cyanobacteria in their cells.  The eukaryotic cells benefited from the cyanobacteria photosynthesizing food for them and the cyanobacteria benefited from the protection it gained in the eukaryotic cell.
 

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