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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the main characteristics of protists
  • Describe important pathogenic species of protists
  • Describe the roles of protists as food sources and as decomposers
Part a is a light micrograph of a round, transparent single-celled organism with long thin spines. Part b is a light micrograph of an oval, transparent organism with ridges running along its length. The nucleus is visible as a large, round sphere. Cilia extend from the surface of the organism. Part c is an underwater photo of a kelp forest growing from the seabed.
Protists range from the microscopic, single-celled (a) Acanthocystis turfacea and the (b) ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila to the enormous, multicellular (c) kelps (Chromalveolata) that extend for hundreds of feet in underwater “forests.” (credit a: modification of work by Yuiuji Tsukii; credit b: modification of work by Richard Robinson, Public Library of Science; credit c: modification of work by Kip Evans, NOAA; scale-bar data from Matt Russell)

Eukaryotic organisms that did not fit the criteria for the kingdoms Animalia, Fungi, or Plantae historically were called protists and were classified into the kingdom Protista. Protists include the single-celled eukaryotes living in pond water ( [link] ), although protist species live in a variety of other aquatic and terrestrial environments, and occupy many different niches. Not all protists are microscopic and single-celled; there exist some very large multicellular species, such as the kelps. During the past two decades, the field of molecular genetics has demonstrated that some protists are more related to animals, plants, or fungi than they are to other protists. For this reason, protist lineages originally classified into the kingdom Protista have been reassigned into new kingdoms or other existing kingdoms. The evolutionary lineages of the protists continue to be examined and debated. In the meantime, the term “protist” still is used informally to describe this tremendously diverse group of eukaryotes. As a collective group, protists display an astounding diversity of morphologies, physiologies, and ecologies.

Characteristics of protists

There are over 100,000 described living species of protists, and it is unclear how many undescribed species may exist. Since many protists live in symbiotic relationships with other organisms and these relationships are often species specific, there is a huge potential for undescribed protist diversity that matches the diversity of the hosts. As the catchall term for eukaryotic organisms that are not animals, plants, fungi, or any single phylogenetically related group, it is not surprising that few characteristics are common to all protists.

Nearly all protists exist in some type of aquatic environment, including freshwater and marine environments, damp soil, and even snow. Several protist species are parasites that infect animals or plants. A parasite is an organism that lives on or in another organism and feeds on it, often without killing it. A few protist species live on dead organisms or their wastes, and contribute to their decay.

Protist structure

The cells of protists are among the most elaborate of all cells. Most protists are microscopic and unicellular, but some true multicellular forms exist. A few protists live as colonies that behave in some ways as a group of free-living cells and in other ways as a multicellular organism. Still other protists are composed of enormous, multinucleate, single cells that look like amorphous blobs of slime or, in other cases, like ferns. In fact, many protist cells are multinucleated; in some species, the nuclei are different sizes and have distinct roles in protist cell function.

Questions & Answers

what makes golgi body in plants
Abdulkareem Reply
name the membrane of the plants
Abdulkareem
During organs transplantation, the organs cannot be taken from just anybody since the graft would be rejected sooner or later due to
Liter Reply
Non-MHC compatibility on the organ and an attack from the patient's immune system.
Eric
what makes golgi body in plants
Abdulkareem
what is integument system
Joy Reply
Cellular respiration
Lucy Reply
what are the characteristics of living things
Ruth Reply
Movement Respiration Nutrition/Feeding Irritability/Sensitivity Growth Excretion Reproduction Deat/Life span
Hashim
What makes children from the same father and mother sometimes don't look alike?
Hashim
identification of problems
Nana Reply
what happens in the process of raising the human arms
Nana
what is biology
Brandi Reply
first step in scientific method
Brandi
In an investigation the pancreatic duct of a mammal was blocked.It was found that the blood sugar regulation remained normal while food digestion was impaired.Explain
Mac Reply
To begin with, obstruction of pancreatic duct will alter the blood sugar level as the juices responsible for glucose regulation will be rendered inconsequential. This will in turn affect the rate of digestion and absorbtion of digested food substances by the Villus .
Muktar
characteristics of algae
OMIME Reply
Algae are eukaryotic organisms. Algae do not have roots and stems. Algae have chlorophyll and helps in carrying out photosynthesis.
Aditi
Cell wall is the rigid layer enclosed by membranes of plants and prokayortic cell, it maintains the shape of the cell and serve as a protective barrier.
chizoba Reply
ECOLOGY: is a branch of biology that studies the interactions among organisms and their biophysical environment, which includes both biotic and abiotic components. 
chizoba
via nutrient cycles and energy flows. For instance, the energy from the sun is captured by plants through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a biological process through which plants manufacture their own food with the aid of light from the sun and frc sources (e.g. cabon dioxide and water)
chizoba
What is cell wall
Taiwo Reply
cell wall is the outemost rigid covering of the plants ,that provides protection to the plants.
Aditi
what is integument system
Joy
The integument system is your skin and the largest system in the body.
Eric
what is protoplast?
Liter
The cytoplasm is inside of the cell, minus the nucleus. The protoplasm is the inside of the cell and the nucleus.
Eric
Out line of cell
Salma
what is ecology, ecosystem?
Nkeng Reply
what is digestive system
Lucky Reply
digestive system is the human syman system that icludes esopuges stomach o braking down of food in to useful substance to our body
samrawit
definition of biology basics
Ritu Reply
the potential energy of a molecule can be inquired by their number of?
Jesus Reply
note on the structure of DNA
bernadette
The chemical potential of a species in a mixture is defined as the rate of change of free energy of a thermodynamic system with respect to the change in the number of atoms or molecules of the species that are added to the system. 
Eric

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Source:  OpenStax, Concepts of biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11487/1.9
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