This curious little green alga, referred to as Mermaid’s Wineglass (Acetabularia acetabulum), grows in clusters on rocks or shells covered with sand in sheltered parts of rocky coasts within its range. Although it grows to 3 cm, it consists of just one cell.
For anyone whose experience in biology is limited to what you might have picked up in high school, it might be tough to imagine that something so large, so immediately tangible, is single-celled.
Each wineglass has a nucleus seated within its rhizoid, a cluster of appendages at the base which serves as a “root” system to anchor the cell. During reproduction, this gigantic nucleus (by everyday cellular standards, anyway) divides into many subsequent nuclei, which then undergo meiosis and move upward to be released as gametes and make more tiny giant algal umbrellas.
“Cool beans,” as my aunt used to say. —MN
HH: I get lost inspecting little worlds such as this.