Chlorophytes (A–F, H–L and O)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Clade: Diaphoretickes
(unranked): Archaeplastida
(unranked): Viridiplantae
Division: Chlorophyta
Reichenbach, 1828, emend. Pascher, 1914, emend. Lewis & McCourt, 2004[1][2][3]
  • Chlorophycophyta Papenfuss 1946
  • Chlorophycota
  • Chlorophytina
  • Chlorophyllophyceae
  • Isokontae
  • Stephanokontae
Green algae on coastal rocks at Shihtiping in Taiwan

Chlorophyta is a taxon of green algae informally called chlorophytes.[6] The name is used in two very different senses, so care is needed to determine the use by a particular author. In older classification systems, it is a highly paraphyletic group of all the green algae within the green plants (Viridiplantae) and thus includes about 7,000 species[7][8] of mostly aquatic photosynthetic eukaryotic organisms. In newer classifications, it is the sister clade of the streptophytes/charophytes. The clade Streptophyta consists of the Charophyta in which the Embryophyta (land plants) emerged.[9][10] In this latter sense the Chlorophyta includes only about 4,300 species.[4] About 90% of all known species live in freshwater.[11] Like the land plants (embryophytes: bryophytes and tracheophytes), green algae (chlorophytes and charophytes besides embryophytes) contain chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b and store food as starch[7] in their plastids.

With the exception of the three classes Ulvophyceae, Trebouxiophyceae and Chlorophyceae in the UTC clade, which show various degrees of multicellularity, all the Chlorophyta lineages are unicellular.[12] Some members of the group form symbiotic relationships with protozoa, sponges, and cnidarians. Others form symbiotic relationships with fungi to form lichens, but the majority of species are free-living. Some conduct sexual reproduction, which is oogamous or isogamous. All members of the clade have motile flagellated swimming cells.[13] While most species live in freshwater habitats and a large number in marine habitats, other species are adapted to a wide range of land environments. For example, Chlamydomonas nivalis, which causes Watermelon snow, lives on summer alpine snowfields. Others, such as Trentepohlia species, live attached to rocks or woody parts of trees. Monostroma kuroshiense, an edible green alga cultivated worldwide and most expensive among green algae, belongs to this group.


Species of Chlorophyta (treated as what is now considered one of the two main clades of Viridiplantae) are common inhabitants of marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments.[14][15] Several species have adapted to specialised and extreme environments, such as deserts, arctic environments, hypersaline habitats, marine deep waters, deep-sea hydrothermal vents and habitats that experiences extreme changes in temperature, light and salinity.[16][17][18][19] Some groups, such as the Trentepohliales are exclusively found on land.[20] Several species of Chlorophyta live in symbiosis with a diverse range of eukaryotes, including fungi (to form lichens), ciliates, forams, cnidarians and molluscs. [15] Some species of Chlorophyta are heterotrophic, either free-living or parasitic.[21][22] Others are mixotrophic bacterivores through phagocytosis.[23] Two common species of the heterotrophic green alga Prototheca are pathogenic and can cause the disease protothecosis in humans and animals.[24]


"Siphoneae" from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur, 1904

Further information: Wikispecies:Chlorophyta

Characteristics used for the classification of Chlorophyta are: type of zoid, mitosis (karyokinesis), cytokinesis, organization level, life cycle, type of gametes, cell wall polysaccharides[25] and more recently genetic data.


Leliaert et al. 2012 proposed the following phylogeny. He marked the "prasinophytes" as paraphyletic, with the remaining Chlorophyta groups as "core chlorophytes". He described all Streptophyta except the land plants as paraphyletic "charophytes".[15]

"Hypothetical ancestral

















Charophyceae (stoneworts)



Embryophyte (Land plants)

green flagellate"

A 2020 paper places the "Prasinodermophyta" (i.e. Prasinodermophyceae + Palmophyllophyceae) as the basal Viridiplantae clade.[26]




Prasinococcales ("prasinophyte clade VI")



Pyramimonadophyceae ("prasinophyte clade I")

Mamiellophyceae ("prasinophyte clade II")

Nephroselmidophyceae ("prasinophyte clade III")

Pycnococcaceae ("prasinophyte clade V")

Chloropicophyceae ("prasinophyte clade VII A/B/C")




Chlorodendrophyceae ("prasinophyte clade IV")




Mesostigma viride





Charophyceae (stoneworts)







Embryophyte (Land plants)

Green Algae/
Prasinophyta s.l.

Leliaert et al. 2012

Simplified phylogeny of the Chlorophyta, according to Leliaert et al. 2012.[15] Note that many algae previously classified in Chlorophyta are placed here in Streptophyta.

Pombert et al. 2005

A possible classification when Chlorophyta refers to one of the two clades of the Viridiplantae is shown below.[27]

Lewis & McCourt 2004

Hoek, Mann and Jahns 1995

Classification of the Chlorophyta, treated as all green algae, according to Hoek, Mann and Jahns 1995.[7]

In a note added in proof, an alternative classification is presented for the algae of the class Chlorophyceae:

Bold and Wynne 1985

Classification of the Chlorophyta and Charophyta according to Bold and Wynne 1985.[29]

Mattox & Stewart 1984

Classification of the Chlorophyta according to Mattox & Stewart 1984:[28]

Fott 1971

Classification of the Chlorophyta according to Fott 1971.[7]: 483 

  • Suborder Chlorosarcineae
  • Suborder Ulotrichineae
  • Suborder Oedogoniineae
  • Suborder Chaetophorineae

Round 1971

Classification of the Chlorophyta and related algae according to Round 1971.[30]

Smith 1938

Classification of the Chlorophyta according to Smith 1938:

  • Order 5. Schizogoniales
  • Family Schizogoniaceae
  • Order 10. Siphonales
  • Order 11. Siphonocladiales

Research and discoveries

In February 2020, the fossilized remains of green algae, named Proterocladus antiquus were discovered in the northern province of Liaoning, China.[31] At around a billion years old, it is believed to be one of the oldest examples of a multicellular chlorophyte.[32]


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Further reading

  • Burrows EM (1991). Seaweeds of the British Isles. Vol. 2 (Chlorophyta). London: Natural History Museum. ISBN 978-0-565-00981-6.
  • Lewis LA, McCourt RM (October 2004). "Green algae and the origin of land plants". American Journal of Botany. 91 (10): 1535–56. doi:10.3732/ajb.91.10.1535. PMID 21652308.
  • Pickett-Heaps JD (1975). Green Algae. Structure, Reproduction and Evolution in Selected Genera. Stamford, CT: Sinauer Assoc. p. 606.