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Discuphytes

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Description

Ball grasses:

Ball grasses are one of the first discuphyte lineages to evolve. Indeed, they evolved so early that they don't even have the characteristic disk shape of the clade. They have this name because of the way they look when viewed from the ocean's surface, resembling a sheet of recently-mowed grass floating in the ocean.

Because of their small size (1-5 mm), they are easily dragged around by the ocean currents and so have become multicellular phytopkankton, but this doesn't hinder their development, as their small size means that they don't need much sunlight to break up the nutrients required for reproduction, and so they still survive as the most numerous discuphytes of the protocene.

Another adaptation for their planktonic lifestyle is an alternating cycle where they only gather nutrients while in the shade of bigger plants, and only break them up while in the sunlight.

Stickweed:

Stickweeds are another small group of species (~6 mm) related to the ball grasses. Like the ball grasses they aren't disk-shaped, instead having an oblong shape similar to that of a rugby ball. Their name comes from their ability to cling to other discuphytes using specialized 'roots' covered in a sticky substance. This is a safe way to ensure they don't get pushed into darkness while still remaining fully underwater, unlike some of their larger relatives.

Furballs:

Furballs are another oblong-shaped discuphyte. Like their stickweed realtives they have evolved their external flagella into root-like structures, however, instead of using them to anchor themselves, furballs use them to maximize nutrient absorbtion, giving them their namesake look with 'hairs' sprouting in every direction.

Bristledisks:

Bristledisks were one of the first actually disk-shaped discuphytes to evolve. They are still quite small (4-8 mm), but they are big enough to use the ocean currents to float above the ball grass carpet and get the most sunlight as possible.

Like all disk-shaped discuphytes, they possess a ring of 'roots' (actually extended flagella) running around their outer edge. As they get older and grow larger, the amount of roots also increases, however this doesn't make them more effective, as they also have to supply materials to a bigger amount of cells. It is normal in this clade for collector cells to have a pair or more flagella instead of the ancestral singular flagellum.

Hairbacks:

These larger (1 cm), more energy expensive discuphytes have found a novel way to aquire more nutrients easily. Instead of only having a ring of roots, they are completely covered in a small coat of 'hair'. Each strand of this 'hair' is made up of multiple interlacing flagella, each with a delicate branching structure, similar to a feather, to maximize surface area.

This is as effective as a discuphyte without multicellular roots could get, and so the hairbacks are one of the most widespread clades and can be found all across de Reccembran oceans.

Bugweed:

Bugweed is the ancestor of all discuphytes with multicellular roots. Instead of using the collector cell's flagella as roots, the collector cells themselves are used to create fine branching structures which hang at the egdes of the plant.

While there are some small bugweed species which hang onto other discuphytes, most are large and freefloating (2 cm), and only use their roots for nutrient adquisition.

Jellyplants:

Jellyplants are the biggest discuphytes in the protocene, reaching sizes up to 6 cm in diameter and almost twice that in lenght. Their disks stick up above the water, aided by surface tension and many small hairs on their underside to stay afloat. Their long, branching roots are the home for many smaller discuphytes, such as stickweed and some bugweed species, and even some filter-feeding exoanimals (discussed later).

They have three types of roots: the long hanging ones they use to aquire nutrients, another ring further up which helps to keep them upright, and the thousands of hairs on the disk's underside, which are also modified roots.

The largest of jellyplants can take months to reproduce only once, but once fully grown, they're practically immortal, repairing easily from wounds that would be lethal for most discuphytes and living for more than two Earth years.

Since the top of their disk (where the cloned gene packets usually grow) sticks above the water, jellyplants have evolved to 'grow' their gene packets downwards instead, making them the only disk-shaped discuphytes to do so.

Speaking of gene packets, while most of them are nothing but specks to the human eye, jellyplants' unsplit gene packets can be as large as a pea, making it quite difficult for reproduction to be sucessful. This is why most jellyplants grow in colonies, and some species have even adapted the tips of their nutrient-absorbing roots to capture and retain gene packets which float by, keeping them from sinking and giving them more chances to become a new plant.

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