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Micrasterias radiata.jpg
Micrasterias furcata
Scientific classification
(unranked): Archaeplastida
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Charophyta
Class: Zygnemophyceae
Order: Desmidiales


Desmids (Gr. desmos, bond or chain) are an order (Desmidiales) in the Charophyta, a division of green algae that forms a sister group to the land plants (Embryophyta).[1]

The desmids are often treated as members of the Zygnematales, as family Desmidiaceae.[2][3] The Desmidiales comprise around 40 genera and 5,000[4] to 6,000[5] species, found mostly but not exclusively in fresh water. Many species may be found in the fissures between patches of sphagnum moss in marshes. With a pH level of approximately 4.0, sphagnum peat provides the ideal environment for this flora.

The structure of these algae is unicellular, while the cell is sometimes divided into two symmetrical compartments separated by a narrow bridge or isthmus, wherein the spherical nucleus is located. Each semi-cell houses a large, often folded chloroplast for photosynthesizing. One or more pyrenoids can be found. These form carbohydrates for energy storage.

Desmids assume a variety of highly symmetrical and generally attractive shapes, among those elongated, star-shaped and rotund configurations, which provide the basis for their classification.[6] The largest among them may be visible to the unaided eye.[7]

Desmidiales lack flagella. Desmids commonly reproduce by asexual fission, however, in adverse conditions, Desmidiales may reproduce sexually, through a process of conjugation,[8][9] which are also found among the Zygnematales. These two groups are closely related, and comprise the class Zygnematophyceae. They resemble the algae genus Spirogyra as some of them are filamentous, such as the species Desmidium swartzii. However, these filaments are arranged in a helix pattern.[6]

Desmids possess characteristic crystals of Barium sulphate at either end of the cell[10] which exhibit a continuous Brownian type motion.

Many desmids also secrete translucent, gelatinous mucilage from pores in the cell wall that acts a protecting agent.



  1. ^ Gontcharov AA, Marin BA, Melkonian MA (January 2003). "Molecular phylogeny of conjugating green algae (Zygnemophyceae, Streptophyta) inferred from SSU rDNA sequence comparisons". J. Mol. Evol. 56 (1): 89–104. doi:10.1007/s00239-002-2383-4. PMID 12569426. 
  2. ^ Kanetsuna, Y. (2002). "New and interesting desmids (Zygnematales, Chlorophyceae) collected from Asia". Phycological Research 50 (2): 101–113. doi:10.1046/j.1440-1835.2002.00263.x. 
  3. ^ "World Register of Marine Species". Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  4. ^ Van den Hoek, C., D. G. Mann, & H. M. Jahns, 1995. Algae:An Introduction to Phycology, page 468. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). ISBN 0-521-30419-9
  5. ^ Brook, Alan J., 1981. The Biology of Desmids, page 1. (Berkeley: University of California Press). ISBN 0-520-04281-6
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ name="pmid17272304">Kapraun DF (April 2007). [
  9. ^ i/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=17272304 "Nuclear DNA content estimates in green algal lineages: chlorophyta and streptophyta"] Check |url= value (help). Ann. Bot. 99 (4): 677–701. doi:10.1093/aob/mcl294. PMC 2802934. PMID 17272304.  line feed character in |url= at position 40 (help)
  10. ^ Proceedings of the Royal Society -Biological Minerals Formed from Strontium and Barium Sulphates. II. Crystallography and Control of Mineral Morphology in Desmids
  11. ^
  12. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Survey of Clare Island 1990 - 2005, noting the Desmidiales recorded. Ed. Guiry, M.D., John, D.M., Rindi, F. and McCarthy, T.K. 2007. New Survey of Clare Island. Volume 6: The Freshwater and Terrestrial Algae. Royal Irish Academy. ISBN 978-1-904890-31-7