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Protist Facts

Protists are simple organisms that have simple cell structures, and they can be divided up into groups by how they move.

Protists are eukaryotic organisms that are not animals, plants, or fungi. The grouping is used for convenience; protists may be closely related to animals, plants, or fungi.

Some protists move with tiny hairs called cilia, other protists move with long tails called flagella, and some protists move using pseudopodia.

Protist Facts for Kids

  • Protists are divided into two groups: protozoa and algae.
  • Protozoa search for food by moving around.
  • Algae rely on sunlight for nutrition, just like plants.
  • Plasmodium falciparum causes malaria.
  • Pseudopod comes from Greek words meaning “false feet.”

Types of Protists

Protists can be categorized based on how they move.

Organisms that have simple cell structures can be grouped according to how they move.

  • Cilia – Micro-hairs called cilia are used by some protists to move. To move through water or other liquids, these hairs flap together.
  • Flagella – Another type of protist has a long tail. The tail helps propel the organism.
  • Pseudopodia – The protist scoots or oozes forward by extending its cell body. This is how amoebas move.

Characteristics

Bacteria, archaea, and other prokaryotic organisms are eukaryotic organisms, while all other living organisms are prokaryotic.

Protists are all organisms that are not animals, plants, or fungi. They are unicellular organisms or form colonies consisting of one or a couple of distinct kinds of cells.

Cells

Protist cells are eukaryotic in nature and contain a nucleus that houses their genetic material. They also contain organelles that execute defined functions, mainly photosynthetic ones.

Facts for Kids x
Facts for Kids

Some protists use a modified version of mitochondria, called hydrogenosomes, to generate energy for cell use in anoxic conditions.

Nutrition

Protists can be photosynthetic or heterotrophs and fall into two categories: phagotrophic and somatotrophs. Phagotrophs use their cell body to swallow up food, while osmotrophs absorb nutrients from the surrounding environment.

Ecology

Free-living protists are vital in many ecosystems, including the ocean. They include several pathogenic species.

Reproduction

Protists can reproduce sexually using gametes or asexually via binary fission. The frequency of genetic exchange between different strains of Plasmodium is unclear.

Eukaryotes appeared in evolution more than 1.5 billion years ago, and sexual reproduction is widespread among eukaryotes. Sexual reproduction is a primordial and fundamental characteristic of eukaryotes, but it was not assumed until recently when it was found in pathogenic protists.

Leishmania, a parasitic protist, is capable of a sexual cycle in invertebrates like meiosis, and Malik et al. found that Trichomonas vaginalis, a parasitic protist, has some of these meiotic genes, suggesting that it is able to undergo meiosis, like trypanosomes.

Leishmania, a parasitic protist, is capable of a sexual cycle in invertebrates like meiosis, and Malik et al. found that Trichomonas vaginalis, a parasitic protist, has some of these meiotic genes, suggesting that it is able to undergo meiosis, like trypanosomes.

Protists generally reproduce asexually under favorable environmental conditions but tend to reproduce sexually under stressful conditions, such as heat shock.

Importance

Plasmodium falciparum, a parasitic malaria parasite, infects red blood cells, multiplies rapidly, and destroys them, creating a potentially fatal complication called cerebral malaria. There are certain strides being made to eradicate malaria in 35 countries by 2030.

Protists play an important role in the environment and help to recycle nutrients and feed upon and control bacterial populations in open water, waterworks, and sewage disposal systems.