Document Type


Date of Original Version



Biological Sciences


Many species of marine algae have life cycles that involve multiple separate, free-living phases that frequently differ in ploidy levels. These complex life cycles have received increasing scientific attention over the past few decades, due to their usefulness for both ecological and evolutionary studies. I present a synthesis of our current knowledge of the ecological functioning and evolutionary implications of the isomorphic, biphasic life cycles commonly found in many species of marine algae. There are both costs and benefits to life cycles with 2 morphologically similar but separate, free-living phases that differ in ploidy levels (haploids and diploids). Evolutionary theory predicts that the existence of subtle yet important differences between the phases may be what allows these life cycles to be maintained. Different phases of the same species can vary in abundance, in demographic parameters such as mortality and fecundity, in their physiology, and in their resistance to herbivory. Some taxonomic groups within the red algae have received significant attention toward these issues, while our knowledge of these properties for brown and green algae remains limited.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License