The Rhodophyta, also referred to as “red algae,” are a distinct eukaryotic lineage of algae with simple plastids (two membranes, derived from primary endosymbiosis). Rhodophytes have a long geological record since the Mesoproterozoic (1.2 Ga). Today, they encompass about 670 largely marine genera with up to 4,500 species predominating the coastal and continental shelf areas of tropical, temperate, and cold-water regions. Red algae are significant as primary producers and providers of structural habitat for other marine organisms. Calcifying (coralline) red algae play an important role in the primary establishment and maintenance of limestone reefs. For further details, see entry “ Algae (Eukaryotic).”
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