By Dr J Floor Anthoni (2007)
Coralline algae could well be the most amazing
plants in the sea, as they are found from the shallowest rock pool to deeper
than any plant can grow; from the cold temparate seas to the warm tropical
coral reefs where they are perhaps the most important reef builders. Coralline
algae are red seaweeds with red pigments. Green seaweeds are usually lush
coralline algae: Coralline algae are like
growing stones as a hard crust over the rock or as segmented leaves
coralline algae The coralline algae are some of the weirdest creatures
on Earth. They are red seaweeds that build limestone skeletons in which
the plant is 'spread around'. They are living stones containing a thin
soup of red seaweed. There are encrusting varieties that grow a stony leaf
on the rock, and there are upright branching varieties consisting of beads
of stone, joined by a very elastic band. These stony plants are amongst
the most robust plants in the sea, found in the most exposed places. Their
light sensitivity covers a vast range from right at the surface, being
exposed to ultraviolet light, to the very deep where no other seaweed can
grow for lack of light.
0609107: two radiate limpets in a tiny rock pool. The pink
patch shows where the pool is, as pink paint (Lithothamnion sp),
a coralline encrusting alga, grows best under water. Note how the smallest
limpet has left its homing spot, where it always returns to sleep. Because
it shades the pink paint, a bare patch results. The pink paint is barren
because it is grazed meticulously by the limpets who need someone else
to do their backs.
f019010: on this patch of rock one can clearly sea the various
'leaves' of pink paint, but each leaf is a separate plant. The biggest
leaf is lumpy. Yellow boring sponge colonies
(Clione cellata) have
drilled their way through the calcareous pink paint.
f019009: a lumpy pink paint species (Corallina polymorphum).
0608237: turfing pink paint (Corallina officinalis)
in a stable rock pool. These stony plants cannot be eaten, but as a stony
extension to the rock face, they vastly enlarge its surface, allowing thread
algae to grow and an army of almost invisible snails to feast on these.
It also provides micro-protection for very small animals like slaters and
snails and it provides a nursery for the young of others.
f032522: the vertical wall of a stable and healthy rockpool
is densely covered in pink turf (Corallina officinalis), mixed with
thin green alga (Enteromorpha spp). An army of small snails lives
f048936: some coralline algae grow a complicated leaf on
top of long-lived seaweeds as on this flapjack
green seaweeds Green seaweeds use a green pigment for trapping solar
energy in photosynthesis. But some red seaweeds can look greenish too.
Green seaweeds prefer shallow water, but some manage to live at considerable
depths, to 30m.
0608232: slender sea lettuce (Ulva laetevirens) in
a gutter of the rock. The bed of sand keeps it moist against drying out.
0608221: when tightly grazed to a rosette like this, the
firm sea lettuce (Ulva rigida) can survive at mid tide amongst the
surf barnacles (Chamaesipho brunnea).
f051525: when left undisturbed, sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca)
can grow very lush, but eventually dies and rots away when not grazed.
A lush patch like this means that there are an insufficient number of grazers.
Poor Knights marine reserve.
0609146: the branched velvet weed (Codium fragile)
looks and feels like velvet. Because it stores a lot of water, it can at
times be found above low tide. It is usually found in sheltered harbours.
Here it mixes with the necklace weed (Hormosira banksii).
f051722: flat velvet weed (Codium dimorphum) forms
rounded patches on the rock. It feels soft but lacks hairs.
f051216: the intricate velvet weed (Codium convolutum)
grows rosettes of flat fingers on the rock. It feels soft and has hairs.
f051502: the green grapeweed (Caulerpa geminata) is
sometimes found in healthy rock pools. Its roots form a growing network.
f034130: the sea rimu (Caulerpa brownii) has feathered
branches that look like the New Zealand rimu tree. It lives under water
in medium shelter, where its running roots permanently occupy space. East
Coast North Island.
f051712: a tuft of finely branched green algae (Cladophora
crinalis?), feeling firm to the touch.