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The genus Desmodesmus (formerly Scenedesmus) has been known and investigated for nearly 200 years. Turpin made some of the first microscopic observations from collections in 1828. Meyen described Scenedesmus, which included non-spiny and spiny colonies, in 1829.In 1999, using molecular analysis, the non-spiny and spiny forms were shown to be separate genera. Thus, the spiny forms are now called Desmodesmus sp. (An, Friedl et Hegewald). And the non-spiny forms retain the original name, Scenedesmus sp.
The genus Desmodesmus is characterised by flat colonies that are
- straight or slightly curved, with cells in one row
- usually 2-, 4-, or 8-celled, more rarely 16- or 32-, joined laterally and lying parallel to each other
- cells are ovoid to ellipsoid, with rounded apices, and bearing long spines or teeth
- the cell wall is granular, spiny or toothed, with wart-like projections and/or ribs present
- the chloroplast is parietal with a single pyrenoid
Reproduction is primarily asexual by autospores, which are released by fracture of the lateral cell wall, although there was a report of flagellated cell (gamete?) production.