Protists are the oddballs of the microbio world. They are all Eukaryotes, but other than that they don’t have much in common with each other. In fact, their biggest commonality is what they are NOT. They are NOT animals, plants, or fungi, and therefore get funneled into the protist category! Sometimes their kingdom is called the junk drawer kingdom, due to its eclectic nature.
Protist is also a relatively new category of organisms. The Kingdom Protista was only accepted by the scientific world in the 1960s!
Most protists are microscopic and unicellular. There are a few multicellular outliers, such as giant kelp, but even these do not show cellular specialization. For the most part their cells all look and function the same.
Since the list of shared characteristics among protists is pretty short, let’s dive a little deeper into the lives of some weird and wacky organisms!
Photosynthetic protists contain chlorophyll and are considered plant-like protists. They include a variety of algae, diatoms, dinoflagellates, and euglena. These protists are autotrophic, meaning they produce their own food.
The diatom is particularly abundant and important protist. Living diatoms generate 20-50% of the oxygen produced on the planet each year, and make up nearly half the organic material in oceans.
Other protists are heterotrophic, meaning they require other organic compounds to provide a source of nutrition for them.
The amoeba are an example of a heterotrophic protist. Amoebas are amorphous in shape, and use morph their blobby bodies in fancy ways that aid them in locomotion as well as hunting and engulfing food sources. They move with the aid of pseudopodia, meaning they extend their cytoplasm into imitation feet to help them walk around. They also manipulate their cytoplasm in order to engulf their food sources through a type of endocytosis known as phagocytosis.
Another fascinating protist is the fungi-like slime mold. In plasmodial slime molds many slime mold cells can fuse together to form one giant mega cell with multiple nuclei. Although brainless, large slime molds act with a kind of intelligence, able to solve mazes and learn new things.
Hopefully your trivia knowledge is as varied and wide-reaching as the characteristics of protists! This go around we’re throwing microbiology trivia at you, as well as neuroscience, general science, and maybe some random bits as well! We suggest fusing your brain with the brains of a few friends in order to up your knowledge and increase your chances of winning!
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