I am going to render a normal conversation that often happens when I talk about seaweed and what I do.
– So, you work with seaweed. Nice! What do you do with it?
– Well, among other things I try to cross different species with one another in order to understand how speciation occurs.
-That sounds interesting. When does the seaweed bloom, then? Or….does it have flowers?
-Nope, it has eggs and sperm just like us. Bladderwrack and narrow wrack have male and female plants and actually have an almost identical lifecycle to humans.
-It has eggs and sperm?! But…is it an animal, then?
Suddenly you realize that what you learned during biology class in school was just a rough cut, simplified picture of reality. Nature and evolution is so much more than that, with more imagination and concepts than we humans are able to name.
I think it is fantastic that algae, some of the planet’s first living organisms, have used eggs and sperm for a long time. Maybe longer even than humans have been around. A flick on the nose at us when we think we are evolutionarily advanced.
Here’s a video of how eggs from bladderwrack start spinning by all the sperm swimming around them, hoping to fertilize. Beautiful!