Press release

Chlamydomonas reinhardtii - a fast swimmer serves as a model organism

The light microscopic pictures show the 10 micrometer-long green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii with its two cilia (top) and the eyespot area (bottom) which is yellow-orange coloured due to its carotenoid content. Photos: © Thomas Nolte and Maria Mittag, University Jena

Phycologists of the Botanical Society of Germany have selected Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as alga of the year 2014. This unicellular green alga is distributed throughout the world. It is able to sense its light environment, is a fast swimmer and is highly appreciated by algal and plant researchers as well as medical scientists as a model organism. The tiny alga has become an ideal organism for studying a variety of biological questions including a specific diurnal behavior which is triggered by an endogenous clock. Its intriguing features include its way of light perception using a primitive visual system and the transfer of the information to motile cilia; and it can protect itself from bursting by discharging excessive water. Chlamydomonas even provides the basis for the establishment of novel scientific areas in neurobiology and medicine, such as optogenetics where genetically modified cells are applied as ‘light switches’.

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Press release

More images and videos of the alga Chlamydomonas reinhartii

The green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii lives in freshwater and wet soils. In the lab it grows in liquid (left) and on solid (right) culture media. Photos: © Thomas Nolte and Maria Mittag, University Jena

Photos of the press release "Alga of the Year 2014: Chlamydomonas reinhardtii - a fast swimmer serves as a model organism


Use of the images is only permitted in connection with reporting on the topic ‘alga of the year 2014’ and only if the photographers are acknowledged in the format: first name, second name, institution. Commercial use of the images is not permitted.

download more images (details, habitat, swimming alga video)

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Literature and Links

Mergenhagen, 1986, Naturwissenschaften 73: 410-412
Merchant et al., 2007, Science 318: 245-251
Hegemann, 2008, Annual Review Plant Biology 59: 167-189
Schulze et al., 2010, Protoplasma 244: 3-14

More information about this alga are available at:">

Contacts for the media

Professor Dr. Maria Mittag

Expert for molecular mechanisms of day and night rhythms in microalgae, especially in the green alga Chlamydomonas. Also member  of the board of the Phycology Section

Institute of General Botany and Plant Physiology, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Am Planetarium 1, 07743 Jena, Germany

Phone: ++49 (0)3641 – 949 201
E-mail: M.Mittag[at]

PD Dr. Burkhard Becker

Expert for contractile vacuoles and also member of the board of the Phycology Section

Botanisches Institut, Universität Köln, Zülicherstr. 47b, 50674 Köln, Germany
Phone: ++49 (0)221-4707022
E-Mail: b.becker[at]

Further Information

Members of the Phycology Section (Algology) ("> conduct research on algae and investigate, amongst others, taxonomical, ecological, physiological and molecular topics on macro- and microalgae. The Section promotes algal research and supports young scientists. The Section is one of five subject-specific Sections of the German Society for Plant Sciences (Deutsche Botanische Gesellschaft, DBG,">

Text: Dr. Esther Schwarz-Weig:">
Translation: Dr. Maria Mittag and Dr. Inka Bartsch, Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Bremerhaven