Learning Outcomes

  • Identify characteristics and examples of protists in the supergroup Opisthokonta
A circular clump of choanoflagellates

Figure 1. Sphaeroeca, a colony of choanoflagellates (aproximately 230 individuals)

The opisthokonts include the animal-like choanoflagellates, which are believed to resemble the common ancestor of sponges and, in fact, all animals.

Choanoflagellates include unicellular and colonial forms, and number about 244 described species. These organisms exhibit a single, apical flagellum that is surrounded by a contractile collar composed of microvilli. The collar uses a similar mechanism to sponges to filter out bacteria for ingestion by the protist. The morphology of choanoflagellates was recognized early on as resembling the collar cells of sponges, and suggesting a possible relationship to animals.

The Mesomycetozoa form a small group of parasites, primarily of fish, and at least one form that can parasitize humans. Their life cycles are poorly understood. These organisms are of special interest, because they appear to be so closely related to animals. In the past, they were grouped with fungi and other protists based on their morphology. Some phylogenetic trees still group animals and fungi into the Opisthokonta supergroup though this is also considered a protist specific group in other phylogenies.

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