Have animal-like organisms that are a part of

Have you ever heard of a protozoa? In this lesson, you will learn some interesting facts about protozoa.

You will learn how they move and eat, and importantly, how they reproduce.

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Introduction to Protozoa

Very quietly, Franky sneaks up on his prey. Hunting, stalking, and then he pounces! Yes, another tasty meal captured and eaten. As you read the first line of this lesson, you probably pictured Franky to be a lion or a tiger, chasing down a zebra or antelope.

Or maybe you imagined Franky to be an alligator jumping and pouncing on an afternoon snack. Well, what if I told you that what was being described was occurring in one tiny drop of pond water? What if I told you that Franky the predator was a protozoa, and the prey was a smaller protist?In the larger world around you, some organisms live off of eating other organisms. In a drop of pond water you would see something very similar occurring. There are tiny plant-like organisms that get energy from the sun, and there are also some organisms that behave like Franky, hunting and eating other organisms to gain energy. Some of these animal-like organisms are called protozoa.

Definition of Protozoa

Protozoa are single-celled, microscopic, animal-like organisms that are a part of the Kingdom Protista.

This kingdom includes single-celled organisms, like some algae, slime molds, and protozoa. Informally, the terms ‘protozoa’ and ‘protists’ are sometimes used interchangeably. Protozoa are eukaryotes, meaning they have a nucleus and some organelles. They’re also classified as heterotrophs, meaning they feed on other organisms to obtain energy, like Franky on his afternoon hunt. Protozoa are divided into four groups based on how they move.

  • Ciliates (who are the largest group of protozoa) – Move via hairlike projections called cilia
  • Amoebas – Ooze about using body extensions called pseudopods (false feet)
  • Flagellates – Move via long whip-like projections
  • Apicomplexans or sporozoans (known as both) – Move by gliding

Protozoa can, and do, inhabit almost every type of aquatic and soil environment, and they also live in the intestines of many organisms! Most protozoa that live in organisms, including humans, do not cause them harm, with a few exceptions, like plasmodium, which is responsible for malaria.

Protozoa Reproduction

Protozoa can reproduce sexually or asexually.

Asexual reproduction is the process in which an organism produces offspring by itself, without the participation of another organism of its species. Sexual reproduction is the process in which an offspring is produced when two organisms of the same species exchange genetic material, and the offspring ends up with a unique combination of genetic material from both its parents. Different types of protozoa use different types of reproduction.Amoebas and flagellates reproduce via asexual reproduction. The most common form of asexual reproduction used by protozoa is binary fission.

In binary fission, the organism duplicates its cell parts and then divides itself into two separate organisms. Two other forms of asexual reproduction used by protozoa are called budding and schizogony. Budding is the process in which a new organism is produced from a small outgrowth from the parent cell.

Schizogony is the process in which a cell’s nucleus divides many times before the cell then divides into multiple cells, each containing one of the nuclei.

Lesson Summary

Protozoa are single-celled, microscopic, animal-like organisms that are a part of the Kingdom Protista and can be found almost everywhere on Earth where there is water or soil, as well as in your own body. They are single-celled, eukaryotic (meaning they have a nucleus and some organelles), heterotrophic organisms (meaning they feed on other organisms to obtain energy) that are broken into groups based on how they move. These groups are:

  • Ciliates – Move via hairlike structures called cilia
  • Amoebas – Ooze about using body extensions called pseudopods (false feet)
  • Flagellates – Move via long whip-like projections
  • Apicomplexans or sporozoans (known as both) – Move by gliding

Protozoa can reproduce sexually (where an offspring is produced when two organisms of the same species exchange genetic material) or asexually (where an organism produces offspring by itself). The most common type of asexual reproduction used by protozoa is binary fission, when an organism duplicates its cell parts and then divides into two separate organisms.

Two other forms of asexual reproduction used by protozoa are budding (when a new organism is produced from a small outgrowth from the parent cell) and schizogony (when a cell’s nucleus divides many times before the cell then divides into multiple cells, each containing one of the nuclei).

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