The prasinophytes (early diverging Chlorophyta), consisting of simple unicellular green algae, occupy a critical position at the base of the green algal tree of life, with some of its representatives viewed as the cell form most similar to the first green alga, the `ancestral green flagellate'. Relatively large-celled unicellular eukaryotic phytoflagellates (such as Tetraselmis and Scherffelia), traditionally placed in Prasinophyceae but now considered as members of Chlorodendrophyceae (core Chlorophyta), have retained some primitive characteristics of prasinophytes. These organisms share several ultrastructural features with the other core chlorophytes (Trebouxiophyceae, Ulvophyceae and Chlorophyceae). However, the role of Chlorodendrophycean algae as the evolutionary link between cellular individuality and cellular cooperation has been largely unstudied. Here, we show that clonal populations of a unicellular chlorophyte, Tetraselmis indica, consist of morphologically and ultrastructurally variant cells which arise through asymmetric cell division. These cells also differ in their physiological properties. The structural and physiological differences in the clonal cell population correlate to a certain extent with the longevity and function of cells.
Volume 47, 2022
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