Mermaids Wineglass (Acetabularia)
A very delicate and beautiful subtropical ocean plant is the Mermaids Wineglass (Acetabularia) also commonly known as Umbrella Alga. This is an unusual plant because each umbrella-shaped wineglass has only one single cell. The plant can be found in protected or sheltered water attached to rocks or other underwater surfaces. Each stem grows to about three inches tall. The stem can remain a slender stalk, or it can form a cap. At the base of the plant is a very large nucleus that divides as it matures and reproductive formation develops. The daughter nuclei are transported to the saclike spore producing organ found on each umbrella lobe. Each individual in the group has a single nucleus with one single cell. The cup-shaped solitary disc found at the top of each stalk has a notched appearance when looked at closely. This plant has several predators that feed off of them among them are sea turtles, urchins, hermit crabs and various plant eating fish.
Because of the large size of this single-cell organism, many biologists have used it for the study of cell biology. These plants can also be grafted to other organisms making them an interesting study. This plant is able to re-grow its cap if it gets removed. When a piece of the stem is removed it has the ability to grow a new cap even when it has no access to its original nucleus. This was, in fact, the first demonstration made regarding DNA. This plant was essential in proving that genes are encoded by DNA. That was proven by experiments conducted by Joachim Hammerling between 1930 and 1950. This awesome little plant with its amazingly complex shape is captivating with its beauty and biological benefits.