Brown algae are multicellular photosynthetic marine organisms, ubiquitous on rocky intertidal shores at cold and temperate latitudes. Nevertheless, little is known about many aspects of their biology, particularly their development. Given their phylogenetic distance (1.6 billion years) from other plant organisms (land plants, and green and red algae), brown algae harbor a high, as-yet undiscovered diversity of biological mechanisms governing their development. They also show great morphological plasticity, responding to specific environmental constraints, such as sea currents, reduced light availability, grazer attacks, desiccation and UV exposure. Here, we show that brown algal morphogenesis is rather simple and flexible, and review recent genomic data on the cellular and molecular mechanisms known to date that can possibly account for this developmental strategy.
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