Review: Red macroalgae in the genomic era

I highly recommend this excellent and accessible article by Borg et al. that provides an overview of the red macroalgae, which “may have been the first eukaryotic lineage to have evolved complex multicellularity”. It’s full of fascinating information: although 97% of red algal species are marine, one lives in sloth hairs, and nori (sushi seaweed) is made from red algae (Porphyra and Pyropia genera). This article also gives an excellent and fascinating overview of red algal cell biology; from their unique cell wall polysaccharides that provide them with strength and elasticity (and us with agarose) to their unusual and highly efficient light-harvesting antennae (phycobilisomes) and their lack of plasmodesmata. There’s a tremendous diversity and variation in the reproductive biology of the red algae spanning from triphasic life cycles to the presence of trichogynes that receive the male nucleus for fertilization; interestingly, the authors point out that this great diversity offers the opportunity to explore questions about the evolutionary and ecological importance of sex. As the title suggests, genomic tools and the emergence of some model species are now shedding further light on these fascinating and important organisms. Summary by Mary Williams @PlantTeaching) New Phytol. 10.1111/nph.19211