Field of Science

Sunday Protist - Assorted oddballs

As I scramble to finish a chapter before my supervisor notices his hiring mistake, instead of writing out a mini-review paper about a single group of sorts, I'll use the opportunity to point out a few of the oddballs I've accumulated lately. Many of them have just a single paper, or a passing mention and a reference to a paper I can't get easily (and that would likely be in some language I can't read to begin with...), and thus they don't really make good weekly protists by themselves. But yet, many are too cool to ignore mentioning.

Our first exhibit is a peculiar association between a coccolithophorid haptophyte (small phytoplankton), Reticulofenestra sessilis, and a centric diatom, Thalassiosira sp.:

The thing in the centre is the centric diatom. The scaley things around are the coccoliths, or calcified scales, of the haptophytes Reticulofenestra clustering around it. The exact nature of this relationship is unknown, though presumably beneficial for the haptophyte, as R.sesslis is found almost exclusively attached to diatoms. Image by from; original citation - Gaarder & Hasle 1962 Nyü Mag Bot (which doesn't exist online *gasp*)

Speaking of haptophytes, here's another cool-looking one. There is quite a bit to say about haptophytes overall, just too lazy to do it right now. There is a post in the making though...
Umbellosphaera. The things on the surface are its coccoliths, of which each individual is intricately crafted into a chanterelle/trumped-like shape. SEM on the left from a nice image repository/course supplement by Isao Inouye from U Tsukuba, one of the Meccas of protistology. (Website is in Japanese, unfortunately for [most of?] us. I really need to learn Japanese someday...) Image of single coccolith on the right from

Now for an obligatory ciliate. Trichodina is a cute little peritrich (group that includes the coiled-stemmed-trumpet Vorticella) that deserves more attention than just a pretty picture, but its looks can't wait to be exposed. Both the top and bottom sides have cilia, and the creature is like a miniature robotic vacuum cleaner, vacuuming the fish gills (or other substrates, like jellyfish) of bacteria and various other prey that accumulate there. In doing so, it causes fish disease, but the cute lil' thing didn't mean to!
Left: Trichodina 'vacuuming' fish gills (source). Middle: DIC image of the Trichodina 'sucker' (surprisingly from National Geographic, of all places). Right: Drawing of the ciliate. (HJ Clark 1866 Am J Sci) Will surely come back to it someday!

And last for today, this little critter is absolutely adorable. There's actually quite a bit to say about it, but I'm not gonna do it because some other blogger is far more qualified to write it up. Perhaps after the conference season calms down a little, said blogger could share their wonderful stories with us...
Apusomonas proboscidea. To paraphrase Opisthokont, 'cute Apusomonas' would be redundant. You see that little protrusion at the top? It wiggles 'spastically' as the critter crawls forward along its flagellum. If you're really keen check out the movies in this recent paper on apusomonads (TC-S alert!). Left: Karpov & Myl'nikov 1989 Zoologicheskiy Zhurnal (in Russ.) Right: Flemming Ekelund at ToLWeb (Apusomonas is really tiny...)

That's it for today. Am going out of town until middle of next week, will likely lack internet (eeek, how will I live?!), so if comments are mysteriously ignored, that's why.


  1. Gaarder & Hasle 1962 Nyü Mag Bot (which doesn't exist online *gasp*)

    Nytt Magasin for Botanik was merged with several other Scandinavian journals to form the Nordic Journal of Botany. This happened in 1981. I wouldn't be surprised to find that the UBC Libraries had it somewhere in (*gasp*) paper form.


  2. Apparently we do actually have it in the library. I somehow failed to figure out the spelling but found it via Nordic J Bot, thanks to you! =D

    It was a short and not overly conclusive article. They argue that the haptophyte accumulation may well be accidental, as it occurs in warm waters where both the centric diatoms and the haptos (esp. E.huxleyii) are in high concentrations...

    Print articles are fine except that the library doesn't allow checking them out, so you have to *gasp* photocopy stuff. Takes a while to dig out faint memories of how to use one of those ancient relics of the past... =P

    (meanwhile, the library saw nothing wrong with checking out out-of-print Saville-Kent 1880 Manual of the Infusoria by some random undergrad...)


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