Nannochloropsis is a genus of microalgae from the phylum Ochrophyta, class Eustigmatophyceae. These unicellular algae are spherical or oblong, measuring 2-5 microns in diameter. While they can be found in fresh and brackish waters, Nannochloropsis widely occurs in saltwater world-wide. They possess major pigments chlorophyll a, beta-carotene, violaxanthin, and vaucheriaxanthin, with canthaxanthin and astaxanthin as minor pigments. Within this genus are 6 species, but since they do not have distinct morphological features that separate them from each other, species identification can only be made using genomic analyses such as rbcL chloroplast DNA and 18S rDNA instead of standard microscopy.
Their rich concentrations of photosynthetic pigments, protein, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (including omega-3 fatty acids), and rapid growth under typical culture conditions make Nannochloropsis popular for use in aquaculture feed and dietary supplements, as well as a potential candidate for biofuels.
Nannochloropsis oceanica. Image from Greenhouse, Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Kagan, M.L. & R.A. Matulka. 2015. Safety assessment of the microalgae Nannochloropsis oculata. Toxicology Reports 2: 617-623.
Lubian, L.M., Montero, O., Moreno-Garrido, I., Huertas, I.E., Sobrino, C., Gonzalez-del Valle, M., & Pares, G. 2000. Nannochloropsis (Eustigmatophyceae) as source of commercially valuable pigments. Journal of Applied Phycology 12: 249-255.
Sudjito, S., Hamidi, N., Yanuhar, U., & I.N.G. Wardana. 2014. Potential and properties of marine microalgae Nannochloropsis oculata as biomass fuel feedstock. International Journal of Energy and Environmental Engineering 4: 279-290.
Greenhouse, Los Alamos National Laboratory https://greenhouse.lanl.gov/greenhouse/organisms/