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Difference Between Moss and Algae


Algae and mosses are quite common in our environment and are primarily found around water bodies. They are greenish in color and have a similar appearance. However, there are many structural and functional differences between them. One of the major dissimilarities is that algae are small organisms without a defined structure. Contrarily, mosses are a sub-division of plants. They have structural similarities with plants but do not possess true roots. Their habitats are also quite distinct from each other. They are often confused with lichens. Let’s tell you everything you need to know about moss and algae.

Comparison Table

StructureLeaves, stem, and rhizoidsThallus
Size1 – 20 cmFew microns to
tens of meters
HabitatTerrestrialMarine & freshwater
ChloroplastsMultipleOne of few
of Generation
SporophyteSeta and CapsuleNo differentiation
UsesFertilizerOxygen production

What is Moss?

Mosses belong to the Phylum Bryophyta of plants, including the simplest land plants. The study of mosses is called Bryology. There are over 12,000 moss species from different genera known so far. They are believed to have evolved from green algae and are closely related. They are diverse polyphyletic small plants ranging between one to twenty centimeters. They are the oldest terrestrial plants. Some also live in water. Mosses are perennial or annual; perennial plants are evergreen.

Mosses have stems and various types of leaves. The leaves are spirally arranged around the stem attached to the ground by the rhizoids. Though they belong to the Kingdom Plantae but are non-vascular, non-flowering, and non-seed producing. Moss is an autotrophic plant. It contains chlorophyll that helps produce their food. Mosses are better adapted to shady and moist places instead of dry land. Generation alteration occurs where the gametophyte is dominant. They may reproduce sexually or asexually. 


Types of Mosses

There are different types of mosses, but the most widely known four classifications ate:


Hornworts are one of the oldest groups of terrestrial plants. They are the most common type found. They anchor to the ground through simple rhizoids and contain only one chloroplast.


Liverworts are smaller plants that look like irregular tiles and cover large areas on the ground. They are often used as ground covers in areas between trees, bushes, and shrubs.


Bryophytes are typically one to ten centimeters high. They are more specialized than some other species. Bryophytes have multicellular rhizoids and proper leaves and stems. They are often present in dense, humid places.

Peat Moss

Peat moss is usually brown or red in color and is abundant in peat bogs. They grow in-ground and miles. The stems carry water through the capillary pathway with the help of dead cells. Peat moss is often used in fertilizers.

Examples of Moss

Examples of moss include Bryum, Notothylas, Megaceros, etc.

What is Algae?

Algae are diverse, thallus plants with more than 30,000 species known. The study of algae is known ad algology. Algae belong to the kingdom Protista. These plants are not closely related and are known as the polyphyletic group. Unlike moss, algae could be unicellular and colonial as well. They are also autotrophic organisms containing chlorophyll to produce their own food through photosynthesis. However, the pigment is not the same in all species, affecting their apparent color. They are responsible for producing 70% of atmospheric oxygen. Despite most of them being autotrophic, some algae are heterotrophs

Algae are one of the oldest groups of freshwater and marine plants. They are usually present in humid soils and wet rocks. You may see them attached to the bottom of the water body giving it a greenish appearance. They are also sometimes found floating. Algae may be branched, filamentous, or plate-like. They can be as high as 60 meters sometimes. Similar to moss, algae also exhibit sexual and asexual reproduction. Algae do not have leaves, stems, or roots – thus called a thallus. They use flagella for locomotion.


Types of Algae 

Algae are primarily divided into six types depending on their pigment. The four types of algae are:

Green Algae

As the name suggests, they are green in color. They have chlorophyll a and b in their cells as the dominant pigment. Starch is present in the chloroplast as the fundamental storage product.

Yellow-green Algae

They are unicellular organisms and appear yellowish-green in color. Yellow-green algae live in freshwater, saltwater, and wet soil. Their cell walls are made of silica and cellulose.

Brown Algae

Brown algae have yellow-brown and brown pigments in their chloroplasts besides a and c. They are multicellular and macroscopic. 

Red Algae

Red algae contain red phycobilin pigments as the predominant pigment in their cells. They are typically present in streams and springs.

Fire algae

Fire algae live in oceans and freshwater. They are unicellular organisms that use flagella for locomotion. They are believed to be poisonous.


Diatoms contain silicon dioxide in their cell wall. They store oils instead of starch and secrete silica. They contain yellowish-brown pigments.

Examples of Algae

Seaweed, giant kelp, and pond scum are common examples of algae.

Similarities Between Moss And Algae

  • They are both eukaryotes.
  • Moss and Algae are the oldest plants on earth.
  • They contain chlorophyll and produce their own food.
  • They are non-flowering, non-seed producing, and non-vascular.
  • Both go through sexual and asexual reproduction.
  • They prefer damp and moist environments.
  • The gametophyte is the dominant stage of the lifecycle.

Differences Between Moss and Algae



Mosses are the oldest terrestrial plants present in damp areas mostly.


Algae are a diverse polyphyletic group of lower thallus plants typically found in marine and freshwater.



Moss belongs to the Kingdom Plantae.


Whereas algae belong to the Kingdom Protista.



Moss has over 12,000 species and subspecies found globally.


Nevertheless, there are more than 30,000 algae species known so far.



The study of moss is called Bryology.


Though, the science of studying algae is known as Algology.



Mosses are believed to have evolved from a common ancestor and are known as a paraphyletic group.


Unlike, algae are named a polyphyletic group of organisms as they are not closely related.



The most common types of moss are hornworts, liverworts, peat moss, and bryophytes.


Algae are typically divided on the base of their pigment. The six types of algae are green algae, green-yellow algae, red algae, brown algae, fire algae, and diatoms.



Mosses are multicellular eukaryotic organisms with leaves, stems, and rhizoids.


On the other hand, algae can be unicellular, multicellular, or colonized, having a thallus.



Mosses can be as short as one centimeter and as tall as twenty centimeters.


Conversely, algae range from a few micrometer large unicellular organisms to enormous sixty-meter tall brown algae.



Mosses are usually terrestrial plants, with some living in water bodies.


In comparison, algae are present in freshwater and marine plants. You may also find them on tree barks and humid soils.



Moss typically has multiple chloroplasts in each cell.


As opposed to mosses, algae may contain one or a few chloroplasts per cell.



The zygote forms the embryo during sexual reproduction in mosses.


Alternatively, no embryo phase is present in algae.



Mosses do not have mitospores.


On the contrary, mitospores are present in algae.

Alteration of Generation


Mosses have a heteromorphic alternation of generation.


However, the alteration of generation in algae is isomorphic.



The sporophyte in mosses is attached to the gametophyte for nutrition and food. It is divided into a seta and a capsule.


However, the algae sporophyte is undifferentiated and does not depend on the gametophyte for nutrition.



Mosses are used widely as fertilizers.


Algae are often utilized in the pharmaceutical and food industries.

The Bottom Line

Moss and algae are primitive plants on earth and are found in damp areas. Both are eukaryotic, autotrophs that produce their own food. Mosses are a kind of plant, whereas algae belong to the kingdom Protista. The absence of a proper structure in algae is one of the major differences between moss and algae. While they are often confused with lichens, lichens are slow-growing plants on walls and trees. Algae contribute to 70% of environmental oxygen, and mosses are widely utilized as fertilizers.

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