Paramecium, reflecting contractile vacuole and ciliary motion. Paramecium resides in fresh water. The excess water it absorbs via osmosis is gathered into two contractile vacuoles, one at each end, which swell and expel water v an opening in the cell membrane. The sweeping motion of the hair-like cilia helps the single-celled organism move. Differential interference contrast, 350x-1000x. Tenth Prize, 2013 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition®. credit: Ralph Grimm, Jimboomba Queensland, Australia.)
Paramecia space single-celled protists that are naturally uncovered in aquatic habitats. Lock are generally oblong or slipper-shaped and are extended with short hairy structures dubbed cilia. Certain paramecia are likewise easily cultured in labs and serve as beneficial model organisms.

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Paramecia cells are characteristically elongated. Historically, based on cell shape, these organisms were divided into two groups: aurelia and also bursaria, follow to the "The biologic of Paramecium, second Ed." (Springer, 1986). The aurelia morphological form is oblong, or "cigar" shaped, through a somewhat tapered posterior end. Bursaria, on the various other hand, represents cell that room "slipper" shaped. They have tendency to be shorter, and also their posterior end is rounded.

Paramecia are a component of a team of organisms well-known as ciliates. Together the surname suggests, your bodies are covered in cilia, or brief hairy protrusions. Cilia are crucial for motion of paramecia. Together these structures whip back and soon in an aquatic environment, lock propel the organism through its surroundings. Paramecia can move forward at rates up come 2 millimeters every second, together José de Ondarza, an combine professor in the room of organic Sciences at SUNY Plattsburgh note on his research study website. Periodically the organism will execute "avoidance reactions" by reversing the direction in which the cilia beat. This outcomes in stopping, rotate or turning, after ~ which point the paramecium resumes swimming forward. If lot of avoidance reactions monitor one another, it is possible for a paramecium come swim backward, though not as smoothly as swimming forward.

Cell structure

Paramecia are eukaryotes. In contrast to prokaryotes organisms, such as bacteria and archaea, eukaryotes have actually well-organized cells. The specifying features of eukaryotic cells are the visibility of specialized membrane-bound to move machinery called organelles and the nucleus, which is a compartment that holds DNA. Paramecia have numerous organelles characteristics of every eukaryotes, such as the energy-generating mitochondria. However, the organism additionally contains some distinctive organelles.

Under an external covering referred to as the pellicle is a great of somewhat firm cytoplasm called the ectoplasm. This region consists of spindle-shaped organelles recognized as trichocysts. When they discharge your contents, they become long, thin and spiky, follow to "Biology the Paramecium." The exact role of trichocysts is not rather clear, though a well-known theory is the they are necessary for defense versus predators. This has been tested over the years and has hosted true for certain Paramecium species against details predators. Because that example, a 2013 write-up published in the journal Zoological Science discovered that trichocysts that Paramecium tetraurelia were effective versus two that the 3 predators the were tested: the Cephalodella species the rotifers and the Eucypris species that arthropods.

Below the ectoplasm lies a an ext fluid form of cytoplasm: the endoplasm. This an ar contains the majority of cabinet components and organelles, consisting of vacuoles. These are membrane-enclosed pockets within a cell. According to a 2013 file published in the newspaper Bioarchitecture, the name "vacuole" defines the reality that they appear transparent, and empty. In actuality, this organelles often tend to it is in filled with fluid and also other materials. Secret take on details functions v a paramecium cell. Food vacuoles encapsulate food consumed by the paramecium. They then fuse v organelles called lysosomes, who enzymes rest apart food molecules and conduct a form of digestion. Contractile vacuoles space responsible for osmoregulation, or the discharge of overfill water native the cell, according to the authors of "Advanced Biology, first Ed." (Nelson, 2000). Depending on the species, water is fed right into the contractile secret via canals, or by smaller sized water-carrying vacuoles. As soon as the contractile vacuole collapses, this excess water leaves the paramecium body through a sharp in the pellicle ("Biology the Paramecium").

Perhaps the most unusual characteristic of paramecia is their nuclei. "Paramecium in addition to the other ciliates have this rather distinct feature," claimed James Forney, a professor the biochemistry in ~ Purdue University. "They have actually two types of nuclei, which differ in their shape, your content and function."

The two varieties of nuclei room the micronucleus and also macronucleus. The micronucleus is diploid; that is, it consists of two copies of each paramecium chromosome. Forney notes the the micronucleus contains every one of the DNA the is present in the organism. "It"s the DNA the is passed from one generation to the another during sex-related reproduction," he said. On the various other hand, the macronucleus has a subset of DNA from the micronucleus, according to Forney. "It is the transcriptionally active nucleus," he added. "So it"s the nucleus that is spelling to do mRNAs and proteins native those mRNAs." The macronucleus is polyploid, or has multiple duplicates of each chromosome, periodically up to 800 copies.

All Paramecium species have actually one macronucleus, according to Forney. But the number of micronuclei can vary by species. He offers the example of the Paramecium aurelia species complex, which have actually two micronuclei and also Paramecium multimicronucleatum, which have several.

Why the presence of two distinctive nuclei? One evolutionary factor is the it is a mechanism through which paramecia and also other ciliates have the right to stave off genetic intruders: piece of DNA the embed themselves right into the genome. "In the situation of ciliates, there"s a mechanism in which, if a piece of DNA is in the micronucleus but it"s no in the macronucleus, it will certainly be eliminated from the following macronucleus that is made," Forney explained. "In various other words, if something international got right into the micronuclear genome, then once the next macronucleus is made, it would certainly removed and not included in the expressed version that the genome." Forney notes the this has actually been explained by some as a primitive DNA immune system; that is, surveying the genome and also trying to store out invading elements.


Diagram that a paramecium. (Image credit: Designua Shutterstock


Paramecia can reproduce either asexually or sexually, depending on their eco-friendly conditions. Asexual reproduction takes ar when ample nutrients room available, while sex-related reproduction takes place under conditions of starvation. In addition, paramecia can additionally undergo "autogamy" or self-fertilization under problems of prolonged starvation, follow to de Ondarza’s study website.

Asexual reproduction (binary fission)

During binary fission, one paramecium cell divides into two genetically similar offspring, or daughter cells. According to Forney, the micronucleus undergoes mitosis, but the macronucleus divides one more way, dubbed an amitotic, or non-mitotic, mechanism. "It is not based upon mitosis yet it divides in between the two cells and also somehow is able to keep around the same number of copies of every gene," he said.

Sexual reproduction (conjugation)

Conjugation amongst paramecia is akin come mating. Forney said that there are two mating types for paramecia, i m sorry are described as odd and also even. This mirrors the fact that the mating types for miscellaneous Paramecium species are denoted by either an strange or even number. Because that example, according to Forney, Paramecium tetraurelia have actually mating varieties 7 and 8. "Odd will mate v the even mating type but you can not mate if you space the exact same mating type," that said. Moreover, just cells within a single Paramecium species can mate with one another.

The process is quickly distinguishable under activities conditions. "The cells stick together. They deserve to actually form rather dramatic clumps that cells as soon as they are originally mixed," Forney said. "Then those slowly pair off into individual bag in culture."

During sexual reproduction, the micronuclei of every paramecium undergo meiosis, eventually halving the hereditary content to produce a haploid nucleus. These are exchanged between the two associated mates. The haploid nuclei from every mate fuse to develop a new, gene varied, micronucleus. In turn, the brand-new micronucleus replicates to give rise to a new macronucleus, according to de Ondarza’s research website.

Autogamy (self-fertilization)

"Autogamy is essentially the very same thing as conjugation, yet it is only happening with a solitary cell," Forney said. During this process, the micronucleus replicates many times. Among these new micronuclei experience rearrangement of their hereditary content. Some DNA is fragmented and also some DNA sequences, known as "Internal eliminated Sequences," room removed, according to de Ondarza’s research website.


The basic term "paramecium" refers to a solitary organism within the genus Paramecium. A genus, follow to Oregon State University, refers to a closely related group of organisms that share similar characteristics. The genus Paramecium is further separated in groups known together subgenera, which every contain one or much more species.

The methods of classifying paramecia have readjusted over the years. The earliest approaches were v visual observation and were based on morphology, at some point describing every paramecia together either aurelia or bursaria. More recently, classification has an unified morphological monitoring with molecular and genetic information. This has helped to build a household tree, known as a phylogenetic tree, the represents evolutionary relationships. This change from morphology to molecular phylogenetics has impacted the understanding of relationships within theParamecium genus and types diversity, according to Michaela Strüder-Kypke, manager of progressed light microscopy at the Molecular and also Cellular Imaging basic at the university of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. She claimed that as of 2012, there are 5 subgenera generally supported by molecule phylogeny to differing degrees: Chloroparamecium, Helianter, Cypriostomum, Viridoparamecium and Paramecium.

Strüder-Kypke claimed that a an approach of identifying varieties known together "DNA barcoding" has actually been provided for Paramecium. "Identification of types based ~ above the succession of a certain fragment that DNA has actually been referred to as DNA barcoding," she explained. "Just favor a barcode in the shop identifies every product, a quick DNA sequence that is saturated divergent, can identify every species." One together barcode, the cox1 gene, has actually been "extensively utilized for the genus Paramecium," Strüder-Kypke said.

There are at this time 19 well-known morphospecies that Paramecium, follow to Strüder-Kypke. She explained that a morphospecies is a types defined only by distinct morphological characteristics, not by genes or the capability to create fertile offspring. That this, 15 sibling species type what is known as the Paramecium aurelia species complex. Sibling species, according to Strüder-Kypke, look alike v no morphologically differentiating characteristics, but they different in biochemical and genetic aspects and also cannot conjugate through one another. The Paramecium aurelia complex counts as a single morphospecies.

New insights into Paramecium taxonomy and also the presence of brand-new species continue to be described even today. The 19th morphospecies,Paramecium buetschlii, was uncovered in a freshwater swimming pool in Norway and described in a 2015 research study paper, released in the journal Organisms Diversity & Evolution. The same document also defined three new "cryptic species" found in Germany, Hungary and also Brazil. The authors define that they to be treated together cryptic types because they were daunting to differentiate morphologically from other members of theParamecium genus. However, taxonomic markers in their DNA indicate that they room a different species.

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"The idea is that, if we look in unusual habitats or "under sampled" areas of this world, we may still find new species," Strüder-Kypke told