Algae(alga-singular) are eukaryotes which are unicellular in nature and are classified under the kingdom Protista. They exist in a symbiotic relationship with their surroundings, because they "give and take" simultaneously, without rendering harm to the other organisms. The environment nurtures the growth of algae and in return algae are utilized in several beneficial ways. Below are the specific symbiotic relationships that algae have with their environment:
Symbiotic relationship of algae with man:
Man may not directly help the algae live, but through man's indirect actions, algae are given the ability to survive. Man is responsible in ensuring that the waters would not become polluted and uninhabitable by not throwing toxic waste products into it. In return, algae have various, significant uses to man:
1. They are utilized as food.
While they are fed by their environment, they are also taken in as food. Seaweeds are harvested by fishermen and are used as delicious appetizers; sometimes even eaten raw.
2. They are good sources of minerals.
Algae are rich in iodine, sodium, and other minerals. Iodine is an essential substance needed by the body to prevent hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. This is a condition related to the thyroid gland. In this disease, there is an over secretion and insufficient secretion of the thyroid hormones because of the insufficiency of iodine. Iodine is an important component of thyroid hormones.
3. They are good source of fertilizers.
They are very good fertilizers for land crops and are utilized by farmers.
4. They are used as emulsifiers for puddings.
5. They are used as stabilizers for ice cream and salad dressings.
6. They are used as gelling agent for jam.
7. They are used as nutrient media for bacterial growth.
They also solidify culture media used in clinical laboratories. There are algae however that produce phycotoxins which had been known to be detrimental to man and to fishes; they cause neurologic problems to man and death in fishes.
Symbiotic relationship of algae with other organisms:
A recent discovery was made by scientists from China and the United States on the symbiotic relationship of algae and fungi which may have been occurring for several millions of years. The algae derive some nutrients from the fungi and vice-versa.
Taylor, one of the scientists involved in the project said:
"Clearly, there are two kinds of organisms living together and, we believe, interacting in more than a chance association."
Symbiotic relationship of algae with other marine life:
Algae provide food as they thrive inside their hosts. These hosts are the coral and jellyfish. In return these hosts give them the substances that they need too.
Without the algae, particularly the zooxanthellae, the corals would not be able to proliferate and survive too. This fact applies also to jellyfishes and sea anemones. Each has a nutrient that the other one needs and they help each other survive through symbiotic relationship.
The world survives on symbiotic relationships. Each creature is related to other creatures in one way or another. Not a single creature could exist alone. Even humans are part of the general equation of balance; man has to be in symbiotic relationship with his environment. It is imperative therefore that every living entity work together to ensure the survival of the other.