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Sunday, February 13, 2011


Leishmania donovani, (a species of protozoa) in a bone marrow cell
Protozoa (from the Greek words proto, meaning "first", and zoa, meaning "animals") is a grouping of eukaryotes,[1] many of which are motile.



The word protozoan was originally an adjective but can also be used as a noun!
Protozoans are referred to generally as animal-like protists because of movement (motile). However, both protozoa and protists are paraphyletic groups (not including all genetic relatives of the group). For example, Entamoeba is more closely related to humans than to Euglena. "Protozoa" is considered an outdated classification in more formal contexts. However, the term is still used in children's education.[2]
While there is no exact definition for the term protozoan, it often refers to a unicellular heterotrophic protist, such as the amoeba and ciliates. The term algae is used for microorganisms that photosynthesize. However, the distinction between protozoa and algae is often vague. For example, the algae Dinobryon has chloroplasts for photosynthesis, but it can also feed on organic matter and is motile.


The most important protozoans range usually from 10 to 52 micrometers, but can grow as large as 1 mm, and are seen easily by microscope.
They were considered formerly to be part of the protista family. Protozoa exist throughout aqueous environments and soil, occupying a range of trophic levels.

Motility and digestion

Tulodens are one of the slow-moving form of protozoans. They move around with whip-like tails called flagella, hair-like structures called cilia, or foot-like structures called pseudopodia. 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. All protozoa digest their food in stomach-like compartments called vacuoles.[6]

Ecological role

As components of the micro- and meiofauna, protozoa are an important food source for microinvertebrates. Thus, the ecological role of protozoa in the transfer of bacterial and algal production to successive trophic levels is important. As predators, they prey upon unicellular or filamentous algae, bacteria, and microfungi. Protozoa are both herbivores and consumers in the decomposer link of the food chain. They also control bacteria populations and biomass to some extent. Protozoa such as the malaria parasites (Plasmodium spp.), trypanosomes and leishmania are also important as parasites and symbionts of multicellular animals.

Life cycle

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 protozoon is hermaphroditic.


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-century systematics, protozoa, along with ciliates, mastigophorans, and apicomplexans, are arranged as animal-like protists. With the possible exception of Myxozoa, protozoa are not categorized as Metazoa.[7] Protozoans are unicellular organisms and are often called the animal-like protists because they subsist entirely on other organisms for food. Most protozoans can move about on their own. Amoebas, Paramecia, and Trypanosomes are all examples of animal-like Protists.


Protozoa have been divided traditionally on the basis of their means of locomotion, although this character is no longer believed to represent genuine relationships:

Human disease

Some protozoa are human parasites, causing diseases.
Examples of human diseases caused by protozoa:

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