Green Algae

An alga of the genus Micromonas, for which the first transformation protocols are presented. Since Micromonas photosynthesizes with the chloroplast (shown here in green) and is very abundant in the ocean, it plays a role in the global carbon cycle
Green alga (Micromonas). Credit: Tom Deerinck, Mark Ellisman, and Alexandra Worden

The green algae (Micromonas) is a eukaryotic, photosynthetic microorganism widely distributed in marine ecosystems around the globe, even in arctic waters. At under 2 micrometers in diameter, it’s considered a picoeukaryote.  The chloroplast—the organelle where photosynthesis occurs—takes up about half of body of Micromonas. (See the above photo, the chloroplast is the semi-circle like shape false-colored dark green). Micromonas is a strong swimmer thanks to the presence of a tail-like flagellum.

Scientific Name: Micromonas

Type: Phytoplankton
Habitat: Estuaries, coastal marine habitats and the open ocean
Range: Worldwide, circumpolar distribution
Size: under two micrometers in diameter
Status: Not rated

There are at least seven known species of Micromonas and likely more out there! Despite their small size, picophytoplankton like Micromonas dominate the open ocean and are important to primary production. Though the contribution of each different species of picophytoplankton are not as well known. Micromonas has been used as a model organism for exploring virus–host infection dynamics within marine chlorophytes.

micromonas microscopy image
Micromonas. Credit: Elodie Foulon via the Encyclopedia of Life
Green Algae and the MBL

Scientists in the Worden Lab at the MBL, study the fate and transport of carbon in the oceans, with a current focus on marine photosynthetic microbes, like Micromonas. The work integrates across genomics, evolutionary biology, and ecology to explore microbial roles in carbon dioxide uptake and fate. A key focus is on how eukaryotic algae, especially the tiny picoeukaryotes like Micromonas, and photosynthetic cyanobacteria vary seasonally and how they will acclimate to changing ocean conditions impacted by climate change.

Learn more about the Worden Lab