AskDefine | Define fucus

Dictionary Definition

fucus n : any member of the genus Fucus [also: fuci (pl)]

Extensive Definition

Fucus is a genus of brown alga (seaweed) in the Class Phaeophyceae to be found in the intertidal zones of rocky shores. It is a common genus found on the Atlantic coasts of Europe and North America.

Description and life cycle

The thallus is perennial with an irregular or disc-shaped holdfast or with haptera . The erect portion of the thallus is dichotomous or subpinnately branched, flattened and with a distinct midrib. Gas-filled pneumatocysts (air-vesicles) are present in pairs in some species, one on either side of the midrib. The erect portion of the thallus bears cryptostomata and caecostomata (sterile surface cavities). The base of the thallus is stipe-like due to abrasion of the tissue lateral to the midrib and it is attached to the rock by a holdfast. The gametangia develop in conceptacles embedded in receptacles in the apices of the final branches. They may be monoecious or dioecious. 
These algae have a relatively simple life cycle and produce only one type of thallus which grows to a maximum size of 2 m. Fertile cavities, the conceptacles, containing the reproductive cells are immersed in the receptacles near the ends of the branches. After meiosis oogonia and antheridia are produced and released, fertilization follows and the zygote develops directly into the diploid plant. It may be considered to be analogous to the life cycle of the flowering plant.  but in algae the oogonia are released and fertilised in the sea while in flowering plants the ovules are fertilised while attached to the parent plant and then released as a seed.

Distribution and ecology

Species of Fucus are recorded almost world-wide. They are dominant on the shores of the British Isles , the northeastern coast of North America  and California .
In the British Isles these larger brown algae occur on sheltered shores in fairly well defined zones along the shore from high water mark to below low water mark. On the more exposed shores not all of these species can be found and on very exposed shores few, if any, occur. Pelvetia canaliculata forms a zone at the top of the shore. Just below this Fucus spiralis, Fucus vesiculosus and Fucus serratus and Laminaria form clear zones, one below the other, along the shore down to low water mark. On sheltered shores Ascophyllum nodosum usually forms a broad and dominating zone along the shore at the mid-littoral. On very exposed shores few if, any plants, of these species can be found. Other brown algae can be found at the low-littoral such as Himanthalia, Laminaria saxatilis and Alaria esculenta. Small green and red algae and animals occur protceted under these large brown algae .

Uses

In Scotland and Norway, up until the mid 19th century, several seaweed species from Fucus and other genera were harvested, dried, burned to ash, and further processed to become "kelp", which was a type of soda ash that was less costly in Britain than the barilla imported from Spain. It has an alkali content of about 2.5–5% that was mainly sodium carbonate (Na2CO3); alkali is essential to soapmaking, glassmaking, and other industries. The seaweed was also used as fertiliser for crop land in the same areas in which it was harvested . The purest barilla had a sodium carbonate concentration of about 30%.
It has been reported that to loosen dried earth a machine which sticks probes a meter into the ground and loosens the earth by blasting air in under pressure. Dried seaweed (bladderwrack) can then be injected into the fissures to hold the drainage cracks open .
In 2005, it was announced that bacteria grown on Fucus have the ability to attack and kill the MRSA superbug .

Taxonomy

This list of species of Fucus excludes names of uncertain status :
  • = Species recorded around the coast of Britain. . F. distichus subsp. edentatus was first described from Shetland Islands by Börgesen in 1903. Powell found F. distichus subsp. anceps on the north coast of Caithness. It had also been recorded from: Orkney Islands, Fair Isle, St Kilda and the Outer Hebrides in Scotland; in Ireland it had been recorded from Counties Clare, Donegal and Kerry . Two subspecies of F. distichus (subsp. anceps and subsp. edentatus) have been described from the British Isles .

Fucus spiralis

F. spiralis is one of the three most common algae on the shores of the British Isles. It grows to about 40 cm long and does not show air bladders or a toothed edge as is found on F.vesiculosus and F. serratus. It forms a zone near the top of the shore above the zones of F. vesiculosus and F. serratus.

Fucus vesiculosus

This is one of the most common species of Fucus, common on most shores in the mid-littoral. Readily identified by a distinct mid-rib and air vesicles in pairs on either side of the mid-rib .
fucus in Danish: Blæretang-slægten
fucus in Spanish: Fucus
fucus in French: Fucus
fucus in Italian: Fucus
fucus in Polish: Morszczyn
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