Are red algae plants?



    1. Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Program in Evolutionary Biology, and NRC Institute for Marine Biosciences, 1411 Oxford Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 3Z1
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    1. Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0215, U.S.A.
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For 200 years prior to the 1938 publication of H. F. Copeland, all authorities (with one exception) classified red algae (Rhodophyta) within Kingdom Plantae or its equivalent. Copeland's reclassification of red algae within Kingdom Protista or Protoctista drew from an alternative tradition, dating to Cohn in 1867, in which red algae were viewed as the earliest or simplest eukaryotes. Analyses of ribosomal RNA (rRNA) sequence data initially favoured Copeland's reclassification. Many more rRNA gene (rDNA) sequences are now available from the eukaryote lineages most closely related to red algae, and based on these data, the hypothesis that red algae and green plants are sister groups cannot be rejected. An increasing body of sequence, intron-location and functional data from nuclear- and mitochondrially encoded proteins likewise supports a sister-group relationship between red algae and green plants. Submerging Kingdoms Plantae, Animalia and Fungi into Eukarya would provide a more natural framework for the eventual resolution of whether red algae are plants or prorists.