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Fucus is a genus of brown alga in the Class Phaeophyceae to be found in the intertidal zones of rocky seashores almost everywhere in the world.

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 Islesmarker , the northeastern coast of North America  and California .

In the British Islesmarker 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, protected under these large brown algae .


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 

Clow and Clow indicate four species of seaweed as sources for kelp: Fucus vesiculosus, Ascophyllum nodosum (formerly Fucus nodosus L.), Fucus serratus, andLaminaria digitata (Hudson) J.V. Lamouroux (formerly Fucus digitatus L.). The Fucus species names noted in this book as sources of kelp do not reflect modern taxonomy for these species, which has been updated using Algaebase. 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 .


This list of species of Fucus excludes names of uncertain status :

* = Species recorded around the coast of Britain. 

Fucus distichus

F. distichus is up to 10 cm long with a short stout cylindrical stipe, branching dichotomous, flat and with a mid-rib . F. distichus subsp. edentatus was first described from Shetland Islandsmarker by Börgesen in 1903. Powell found F. distichus subsp. anceps on the north coast of Caithnessmarker. It had also been recorded from: Orkney Islandsmarker, Fair Islemarker, St Kildamarker and the Outer Hebridesmarker in Scotlandmarker; in Irelandmarker it had been recorded from Counties Claremarker, Donegalmarker and Kerrymarker . Two subspecies of F. distichus (subsp. anceps and subsp. edentatus) have been described from the British Isles .

Fucus distichus is the organism used as a model to study the development of cell polarity, since it forms an apolar zygote that can develop polarity given a varying number of gradients.

Fucus serratus

F. serratus, toothed wrack, is the most distinctive of all the Fucus species. It clearly shows a distinctive serrated edge to the frond not shown by the other species of the genus .

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 .

See also


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