Phylum Protozoa, General Characteristics and Classification

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Phylum Protozoa

Definition: Unicellular or acellular microscopic organisms possessing typical cell structure called protozoa. These are acellular, microscopic, single celled with typical cellular structures.

Phylum Protozoa General Characters-

1. Small usually microscopic and can be seen with naked eyes.

2. Body: Acellular with one or more than one nuclei.

3. Symmetry: Non-symmetrical, bilateral, radial, spherical.

4. Body covering: A pellicle.

5. Shape: Usually constant.

6. Division of labour no physiological division of labour hence acellular.

7. Locomotion: Pseudopodia, flagella (whip like) and cilia (hair like) or organs absent.

8. Nutrition: Holozoic, holophytic, parasitic or saprozoic.

9. Excretion: Through contractile vacuoles or generally through body surface.

10. Reproduction: Asexually and sexually.

11. Life histories: Often complicated by alternation of generation.

12. Encystment: Helps in dispersal and resist untavourable condition.

13. Habit and habitat: These are ubiquitous or cosmopolitan. Free living protozoans are usually aquatic (marine or fresh water). Several protozoans are commensal, symbiotic and parasitic species. Parasitic protozoans are internal or external.

Most protozoans are solitary but colonial also.

Protozoans mostly feed upon the organic food matters. Some are carnivorous who feed the other protozoans. Some feed only upon plants.

Most of them feed upon dead or decaying organic matters and parasitic forms live upon the tissues of hosts whereas other species are synthesizing their own food with the help of chlorophyll.

Classification: On the basis of presence or absence of locomotory organs this phylum is divided into following five classes-

Class 1

Rhizopoda-Includes 80,000 sps.

1. Body: Naked.

2. Locomotion: By temporary pseudopodia.

3. Excretion: Usually with contractile vacuoles.

4. Majority free livings e.g. amoeba, entamoeba, arcella, polystomella

Class 2

Mastigophora or flagellata-2000 sps.

1. Body: Covered with thin pellicle.

2. Locomotion: By whip like undulating flagella.

3. Habit: Free living and solitary. Some are parasitic. e.q. cryptomonas, euglena, chlamydomonas, volvox, noctituca, ceratium, trypanosoma, leishmania, giardia.

Class 3

Sporozoa -2000 sps

1. Body: Covered with thick cuticle or pellicle.

2. Locomotion: Absent in adults.

3. Mouth and cytopyge (anal opening): Present.

4. Spore formation: During sexual reproduction.

5. Habit: Exclusively parasitic and degenerated. e.g. monocystis, gregarina, coccidium (eimeria) plasmodium.

Class 4

Ciliata-2500 sps.

1. Body: Naked and bound by a firm pellicle externally.

2. Locomotion: Hair like numerous cilia.

3. Mouth and cytopyge: Along with oral apparatus.

4. Nuclei: Two types of nuclei-micro and macro, e.g., opalina, paramecium, balantidium, vorticella.

Class 5

Suctoria-200 sps.

1. Sessile infusoria

2. Locomotion: Youngs are motile with cilia and adults are without cilia with two kinds of tentacles. e.g. acineta, ephelota, dendrosoma.

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