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Antony Van Leeuwenhoek discovered Protozoa.

Protozoa are single-celled eukaryotes (organisms whose cells have nuclei) that
commonly show characteristics usually associated with animals, most notably
mobility and heterotrophy.
They are often grouped in the kingdom Protista together with the plant-like algae
and fungus-like water molds and slime molds.
In some newer schemes, however, most algae are classified in the kingdoms
Plantae and Chromista, and in such cases the remaining forms may be classified as
a kingdom Protozoa.
The name is misleading, since they are not animals (with the possible exception of
the Myxozoa).
Protozoa have traditionally been divided on the basis of locomotion.
Most protozoans are too small to be seen with the naked eye - most are around
0.01-0.05 mm, although forms up to 0.5 mm are still fairly common - but can
easily be found under a microscope.

Protozoa commonly range in length between 10 to 52 micrometers, but can grow
as large as 1 mm. They are easily seen with a microscope. The largest protozoa are
known as deep-sea dwelling xenophyophores, which can grow up to 20 cm in
diameter. They were formerly considered to be part of the protista family. Protozoa
exist throughout aqueous environments and soil, occupying a range of trophic
levels. They are eukaryotic unicellular and aquatic organisms that can
be flagellates (motile with flagella), ciliates (motile with cilia),
and amoebas (motile by means of pseudopodia). Flagellates are the most numerous
soil protozoa.
Motility and digestion
Tulodens are 2 of the slow-moving form of protozoa. They move around with
whip-like tails called flagella (5-10m long), hair-like structures called cilia(20-
30 m long), or foot-like structures called pseudopodia (2m thick by 20 m).
Others do not move at all. Protozoa may absorb food via their cell membranes,
some, e.g., amoebas, surround food and engulf it, and yet others have openings
or "mouth pores" into which they sweep food,and that engulfing of food is said
to bephagocytosis. All protozoa digest their food in stomach-like compartments
called vacuoles.
The pellicle is a thin layer supporting the cell membrane in various protozoa,
protecting them and allowing them to retain their shape, especially during
locomotion, allowing the organism to be more hydrodynamic. They vary
from flexible and elastic to rigid. Although somewhat stiff, the pellicle is
also flexible and allows the protistto fit into tighter spaces.
In ciliates and Apicomplexa, it is formed from closely packed vesicles
called alveoli. In euglenids, it is formed from protein strips arranged spirally
along the length of the body. Examples of protists with a pellicle are
the euglenoids and the paramecium, a ciliate. In some protozoa, the pellicle
consists of many bacteria that adhere to the surface by their fimbriae or
"attachment pili". Thus, attachment pili allow the organisms to remain in the
broth, from which they take nutrients, while they congregate near air, where
the oxygen concentration is greatest.


Protozoa were previously often grouped in the kingdom of Protista, together with
the plant-like algae and fungus-like slime molds. As a result of 21st-
centurysystematics, protozoa, along with ciliates, mastigophorans,
and apicomplexans, are arranged as animal-like protists. Protozoa are unicellular
organisms and are often called the animal-like protists because they subsist entirely
on other organisms for food. Most protozoa can move about on their
own. Amoebas, paramecia, andtrypanosomes are all examples of animal-like

The classification of protozoa has been and remains a problematic area of
taxonomy. Where they are available, DNA sequences are used as the basis for
classification but for the majority of described protozoa such material is not
available. They have been and still are mostly on the basis of their morphology and
for the parasitic species their hosts. Protozoa have been divided traditionally on the
basis of their means of locomotion.
Flagellates (e.g., Giardia lamblia)
Amoeboids (e.g., Entamoeba histolytica)
Sporozoans (e.g., Plasmodium knowlesi)
Apicomplexa (now in Alveolata)
Microsporidia (now in Fungi)
Ascetosporea (now in Rhizaria)
Myxosporidia (now in Cnidaria)
Ciliates (e.g., Balantidium coli)
As a phylum the Protozoa had been divided into four subphyla reflecting the means
of locomotion:
Subphylum Sarcomastigophora
Superclass Mastigophora (includes flagellates)
Superclass Sarcodina
Superclass Opalinata
Subphylum Sporozoa (includes apicomplexans)
Class Microsporidea
Subphylum Ciliophora (includes ciliates)
Some protozoans have complex digestive systems and feed on large food particles,
such as other microorganisms. The food is digested by means of enzymes and the
wastes transported to the cell surface or stored in vacuoles (bubblelike spaces in
the cytoplasm). Others have no digestive system and absorb dissolved organic
matter through the cell membrane.
Respiration is accomplished by the diffusion of dissolved gases through the cell
membrane. Oxygen diffuses into the cell, where it oxidizes food molecules,
producing energy and the organic molecules used for the building and maintenance
of the cell. Carbon dioxide and water, the waste products of this oxidation, diffuse
out of the cell.

Some protozoan animals possess an organelle having the form of an internal sac, or
vacuole, which enlarges by the accumulation of a clear fluid and then discharges
its contents to the exterior. The cycle of filling and emptying may be repeated as
frequently as every half minute. The chief role of the contractile vacuole appears to
be in osmotic regulation, not in nitrogen excretion.
Contractile vacuoles occur more frequently and are more active in freshwater
species than in closely related marine species. In fresh water, the concentration of
dissolved substances in the cell is greater than in the external medium, and the cell
takes in water by osmosis. If the contractile vacuole is put out of action, the cell
increases in volume. If the concentration of salts in the medium increaseswhich
would have the effect of decreasing the rate of osmosisthe rate of output by the
contractile vacuole diminishes. The fluid eliminated by the vacuole is more dilute
than the cytoplasm.

Some protozoa have life stages alternating between proliferative stages
(e.g., trophozoites) and dormant cysts. As cysts, protozoa can survive harsh
conditions, such as exposure to extreme temperatures or harmful chemicals, or
long periods without access to nutrients, water, or oxygen for a period of time.
Being a cyst enables parasitic species to survive outside of a host, and allows their
transmission from one host to another. When protozoa are in the form
of trophozoites (Greek, tropho = to nourish), they actively feed. The conversion of
a trophozoite to cyst form is known as encystation, while the process of
transforming back into a trophozoite is known as excystation. Protozoa can
reproduce by binary fission or multiple fission. Some protozoa reproduce sexually,
some asexually, while some use a combination, (e.g., Coccidia). An individual
protozoan is hermaphroditic.

Reproduction is usually asexual, occurring mostly by cell division, or binary
fission; some forms reproduce asexually by budding or by the formation of spores
(reproductive cells that give rise to a new organism without fertilization). In certain
groups sexual reproduction sometimes also occurs. In these instances, cell division
is preceded by the fusion of two individuals or, in ciliates, by conjugation and
exchange of nuclear material.

Protozoa are found almost everywhere, in water, in moist surface of the soil, in air
and even within the bodies of other animals and plants. They exert far more
influence on the worldly affairs. They are harmful as well as useful species.
Useful Protozoa
Helpful in sanitation: Numerous biologic protozoa feed on putrefying bacteria
in various bodies of water and thus help indirectly in purification of water.
These Protozoa play an n important part in the sanitary betterment and
improvement of water and keeping water safe for drinking purposes.
Planktonic Protozoa as food: Protozoa floating on the plankton of sea provide
directly or indirectly the source of food supplies to man, fish and other animals.
They form one of the first links in the numerous and complicated food chains
that exist in the oceans of the world. Clams and young fish feed extensively on
aquatic larvae, small crustaceans, worms, etc. all of which take Protozoa as
food. Thus Protozoa indirectly form food of fish, clams and other animals,
which in their turn are consumed by man.
Symbiotic Protozoa: Some Protozoan are found in symbiotic relationship with
other organisms. This association is beneficial to both the partners. The two
partners become so dependent on each other and their separation results in the
death of both. Several intestinal Protozoan flagellates of termites and
woodroaches are extremely vital for the very existence of their hosts. They
digest cellulose into soluble glycogen substance for their hosts as well as for
Oceanic ooze and fossil Protozoa: the tiny skeletons of dead pelagic
Foraminiferida, Radiolaria and Heliozoa sink to the sea bottom forming the soft
mud or oceanic ooze. These tiny skeletons are made up of silica or calcium
carbonate and over the years, deposited on the floor of the ocean, became solid
and fossilized and converted into some important sedimentary rock strata found
all over the world. These have been put to various commercial uses such as
filtering agents, abrasives, chalk, building stones etc.
Protozoa in study: They are studied in the laboratories for the comprehension
and application of biological principles. Due to their minute size and quick
reproduction, they are studied by geneticists for heredity and variations. They
are progenitors of metazoans so their study helps in understanding the probable
beginning of organic matter and the origin and evolution of life. The study of
physiology of Protozoa also contributed to know about the physiology of cell.

Fig. 1: T.S. View of Protozoa