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Diagnostic features

Swimming cell with spherical to ovoid cells propelled by two flagella. Flagella emerge from the cell apex above a clear area in the cell, in which pulsing vacuoles may be seen. Flagella may be lost in older cells.  Chloroplasts occur singly and are cup-shaped around the inside of the cell perimeter, but may be deeply divided, incised, or lobed to appear as more than one, and may contain pyrenoids and/or an eyespot. Under some conditions, cells never possess flagella, becoming mucilaginous colonies of stationary cells.  These can still usually be identified because the clear area at the cell apex is still present, where the pulsing vacuoles may still be visible.

Typical habitats

Found in the plankton of nutrient-rich lakes and ponds. Can be abundant in sewage ponds at any time of year. However, there are hundreds of described species, and some of these occur in low-nutrient habitats, soil and even snow.


Kingdom Plantae
Phylum Chlorophyta
Class Chlorophyceae
Order Chlamydomonadales
Family Chlamydomonadaceae
Common name Green algae