Biology » Protists » Groups of Protists

Summarizing Groups of Protists


The process of classifying protists into meaningful groups is ongoing, but genetic data in the past 20 years have clarified many relationships that were previously unclear or mistaken. The majority view at present is to order all eukaryotes into six supergroups: Excavata, Chromalveolata, Rhizaria, Archaeplastida, Amoebozoa, and Opisthokonta. The goal of this classification scheme is to create clusters of species that all are derived from a common ancestor. At present, the monophyly of some of the supergroups are better supported by genetic data than others. Although tremendous variation exists within the supergroups, commonalities at the morphological, physiological, and ecological levels can be identified.


biological carbon pump

process by which inorganic carbon is fixed by photosynthetic species that then die and fall to the sea floor where they cannot be reached by saprobes and their carbon dioxide consumption cannot be returned to the atmosphere


generation and emission of light by an organism, as in dinoflagellates

contractile vacuole

vesicle that fills with water (as it enters the cell by osmosis) and then contracts to squeeze water from the cell; an osmoregulatory vesicle

cytoplasmic streaming

movement of cytoplasm into an extended pseudopod such that the entire cell is transported to the site of the pseudopod


organelle carried by parabasalids (Excavata) that functions anaerobically and outputs hydrogen gas as a byproduct; likely evolved from mitochondria


mass of DNA carried within the single, oversized mitochondrion, characteristic of kinetoplastids (phylum: Euglenozoa)


nonfunctional organelle carried in the cells of diplomonads (Excavata) that likely evolved from a mitochondrion


diverse group of mostly microscopic organisms that drift in marine and freshwater systems and serve as a food source for larger aquatic organisms


slit in the silica shell of diatoms through which the protist secretes a stream of mucopolysaccharides for locomotion and attachment to substrates


porous shell of a foram that is built from various organic materials and typically hardened with calcium carbonate

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