What is Yellow or Mustard Algae?

Mustard Algae have been described as “adapted green algae”. Mustard algae also contain chlorophyll, but the green color is masked by the presence of beta-carotene. Carotenoids (such as beta-carotene) are found in many photosynthetic organisms. These compounds are responsible for color (like the orange color of carrots) which is why mustard algae are yellow rather than green.

Carotenoids are anti-oxidants (or reducing agents). They protect against damage cause by oxidation. Mustard algae can use these compounds as a defense mechanism to help them survive in a chlorinated environment. Because carotenoids protect against oxidation, chlorine (as an oxidizer) may have little effect on algae once this defense mechanism has been activated within the cells.

Carotenoids can be a defense mechanism in non-photosynthetic organisms (humans and animals) as well but must be obtained through diet. As anti-oxidants, they may prevent damage to cells caused by oxidation. Some medical experts have suggested a diet rich in anti-oxidants is linked to increased health, including an enhanced immune system and reduced cancer rates.