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The increase in resolution and taxon sampling of algal phylogenies resulting from the various algal tree of life projects and other initiatives worldwide opens tremendous opportunity to learn more about the evolution of all aspects of algal biology. Using evolutionary modeling techniques in a phylogenetic context, hypotheses about the evolution of particular traits and their interaction with speciation-extinction dynamics become testable. I will illustrate this with three case studies. First, I will investigate the evolution of the thermal niche of seaweeds, showing how it affects latitudinal diversity patterns. Second, I will test the hypothesis that the evolution of cellular trace element requirements (stoichiometry) is dominated by endosymbiosis events. Third, I will investigate the evolution of morphological traits typically used in species-level systematics, focusing on its implications for the prevalence of cryptic diversity. These case studies show the potential and limitations of the approach, and offer new insights in algal evolution from the very recent to the very ancient, and across the various subdisciplines of algal biology.