Scientists Say: Kelp

This large ocean organism looks like a plant but is actually a type of algae


This otter is floating in a raft of kelp. All that can be seen at the surface are the tips of the kelp plants, which are anchored to the sea floor below.


Kelp (noun, “KEHLP”)

This is a group of large seaweeds. These seaweeds look a lot like plants, but they’re something else. Kelp are a type of brown algae — water-based organisms that get their energy from sunlight. Though they’re not plants, kelp have stemlike parts called stipes. They also have leaflike blades and rootlike holdfasts.

There are many different species of kelp. Some can grow up to 45 centimeters (18 inches) per day. And they can reach up to 53 meters (175 feet) in length. In some shallow parts of the ocean, such as the coasts of California, South America and Australia, kelp grow in huge forests. Those forests are important homes for sponges, fish, sea urchins, otters and other critters.

In a sentence

Some kelp forests are so large they can be spotted from space.

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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