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Protist Diversity and Kingdom Plantae Lab

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8. Protists
1. Become familiar with and draw examples of protists
2. Understand the unique position of the protists within the Domain Eukarya
The protists are a very diverse group of organisms that can be found in
many different environments. They are all eukaryotic organisms, they have
a nucleus in each of their cells (and some even more than one). The first
eukaryotic organism was a protist. From this protist all other eukaryotes
evolved. Therefore, all eukaryotic organisms form a natural group (or, as
present-day systematics would say, a monophyletic group or clade), which
is named the Domain Eukarya (figure 1). A natural group of organisms is a
group of organisms that are closely related through a shared evolutionary
history (or phylogeny). They can be traced back to a common ancestor.
Within the Domain Eukarya are nested other smaller but well-defined
monophyletic groups. These are the plants (Kingdom Plantae), animals
(Kingdom Animalia) and fungi (Kingdom Fungi), each with their own
evolutionary history (phylogeny). For instance, all present-day plants are
related to each other as they all share a common ancestor, the first plant.
They share an evolutionary history that goes back to the first plant. The
same is true for the fungi and animals. Biologists base their classification
system on the establishment of these natural groups or monophyletic
It has been very difficult to establish natural groups for the rest of the
eukaryotes. Therefore they have been lumped into the group called protists
(everything that is not an animal, plant or fungus). They were even elevated
to the status of Kingdom. We can no longer do this as they do not confirm to
the definition of a natural group. Now we refer to them with the more
informal name protists (with a small letter p). Of course, all protists are
linked to a common ancestor, and are part of a natural group. That group is
called the Domain Eukarya. To that group also belong the Kingdoms of
Plants, Animals and Fungi. Therefore the protists as a whole cannot be
referred to as a Kingdom itself (as it would include other Kingdoms).
Biologists are hard at work trying to define groups within the protists that
share evolutionary histories. Many characteristics of the organisms,
including DNA sequences, are used to establish these natural groups.
Progress has been made and some proposals have been published to
classify the protists (like figure 1). If you look at the right side of figure 1,
you’ll see Land plants, Fungi and Animals. These are the well-defined 3
Kingdoms. You also see many other names at the same level as these 3
kingdoms, like Diplomonads, Parabasilids, etcetera. Should all these groups
on the right side of figure 1 now also be considered Kingdoms? That’s the
question that is being debated among biologists. There is a lot of
disagreement about this. Some of these groups are small and some are not
completely supported by enough scientific evidence. We also have to deal
with tradition, as names like protists have been in use for many years. A
new hierarchical level has been introduced called Supergroups to sort of
structure the discussion around groups of organisms about which there is
some agreement. It is very likely that these 6 Supergroups within
themselves are monophyletic (well-defined clades). The position of
Supergroups is between Domain and Kingdom.
This lab is organized around these Supergroups to recognize the progress
that’s been made in classifying Eukarya according to the rules of
Classification or Systematics based on phylogeny.
You will have to draw examples of organisms of each of the Supergroups
(except plants, animals and fungi that will be covered in separate labs).
Some examples are on ready-made slides, others are in little jars that
contain live organisms (make a wet mount for those). Ask your instructor
for guidance in determining the names of the organisms (see also Fig. 2 at
the end of this lab chapter). Write the name of the organism above your
drawing. It helps you to memorize and spell the name of the organism.
Figure 1 Evolutionary tree (cladogram) of the Eukaryotes showing 6 Supergroups (names on the
right). The Plant, Animal and Fungi Kingdoms fall within the Supergroups. No consensus exists
about the position, level in the hierarchy, of the other groups. (From Biology by OpenStax).
These are single-celled organisms that all have a groove “excavated” on
their side. There is one example from this group.
1. Euglena:
The example is a photosynthetic euglena. The group to which Euglena
belongs (the Euglenozoans) also has heterotrophic, parasitic and
mixotrophic species. Our Euglena got its chloroplast through
secondary endosymbiosis of a green alga.
1. Name:
The Chromalveolata are divided into two well-defined groups that are strong
candidates to once be called kingdoms: the Alveolates and the
The Alveolates have an alveolus, a membrane-enclosed sac, beneath the cell
membrane. Two examples:
2. Dinoflagellate:
Dinoflagellates are unicellular, mostly photoautotroph algae. Some
are chemoautotrophic or chemoheterotrophic. They are covered with
plates made of cellulose. They have two flagella in perpendicular
grooves, producing a spinning movement of the organism. We have a
prepared slide for this organism.
3. Paramecium
Paramecium belongs to the group of ciliates, a group of mostly
unicellular protists characterized by the presence of many hair-like
cilia. They use these cilia to move and feed. We have live specimen of
this organism. Make a wet mount of a Paramecium as an example of
a ciliate protist and draw the organism.
2.2 Straminopiles
The Straminopiles include photosynthetic single-celled and multicellular
algae and heterotrophic species. Two examples from this group:
4. Diatom
Diatoms are unicellular photosynthetic algae with cell walls made of
silica. The cell wall consists of two halves that fit together like the
bottom and lid of a box (or like the two halves of a petri dish). Some
form multicellular colonies. Our examples of diatoms are on a
prepared slide.
5. Brown alga: Rockweed (Ascophyllum)
Brown algae are multicellular algae. They are referred to, together
with the red algae and marine multicellular green algae, as seaweeds.
Some are very large and abundant along the edges of the oceans
where they form so-called forests of the sea. However, they are not
plants and lack true stems, leaves, roots, and a vascular system.
5. Name:
Rhizarians are unicellular heterotrophic protists that have tiny shells made of
calcium carbonate (in the foraminifers) or of glassy silica (in the
radiolarians). The shells contain tiny pores through which thread-like
pseudopodia extend that trap food particles. The shells fossilize very well
and can accumulate to tens of meters of sediment in the world’s oceans.
They are important in geologic studies and in climate reconstruction. The
O18/O16 ratios of oxygen isotopes in the CaCO3 of the foraminifer shells are
indicators of former temperatures. This isotope record plays an important
role in climate reconstruction.
6. Foraminifers
We have a ready-made slide with a mix of forams.
7. Radiolarians
We have a ready-made slide with a mix of radiolarians.
The Archaeplastida are the red algae, green algae and land plants. These
are all organisms that got their chloroplasts through primary endosymbiosis
of cyanobacteria. There are some indications that the red algae were the
first organisms with chloroplasts. Green algae and land plants must have
evolved from them. For some biologists, this is a reason to group the red
algae, green algae and land plants together in the Kingdom Plantae (Plants).
Many other biologists would like to reserve the name Kingdom Plantae to
the land plants, because of tradition and because the land plants are readily
recognizable. Another reason is that all land plants have an embryo as an
early developmental stage that is protected by the parent plant. Red and
green algae do not have that. They release their gametes in the water
where fertilization and development of the young alga takes place. Another
Kingdom name has been suggested for the land plants: Kingdom
Embryophyta. If red and green algae were to be included in the plant
kingdom, then we might want to use the name Kingdom Archaeplastida.
Biologists have not reach consensus about this matter. To be continued!
8. Red Algae
Some red algae are typically soft-bodied multicellular protists. Others
have walls encrusted with hard chalky deposits. Those are common on
coral reefs.
We have a preserved red alga named Chondrus crispus (“Irish moss”).
(Another red alga you may have heard of is nori, which is the dried
version of the red alga Porphyra and used in making sushi.)
9, 10 and 11. Green Algae
Many green algae are plant-like in even more respects than red algae.
Like plants, they photosynthesize using pigments chlorophyll a and b,
have starch and have cell walls with cellulose. Many green algae are
unicellular, others are colonial, while others are truly multicellular.
You have to draw 3 examples of unicellular or colonial green algae
from a jar with live phytoplankton.
The term plankton refers to tiny organisms. Phytoplankton are tiny
photosynthetic organisms like the single celled or colonial green algae
discussed here. Zooplankton includes single celled heterotrophic
protists and multicellular larval stages of some animals like the larvae
of arthropods like crabs.
Examples of algae that could be present in our live samples are:
Chlamydomonas, Desmid, Pediastrum, Hydrodictyon (water net),
Scenedesmus, Cosmarium, and Volvox. Ask your instructor for help in
identifying the green algae or use figure 2 at the end of this lab
You also have to draw a multicellular alga.
12. Ulva
Ulva or sea lettuce is a multicellular marine alga
The land plants are covered by Lab topic 9.
8. Name:
9. Name
10. Name
11. Name
12. Name
All organisms in this group have a single-celled amoeba-like stage in their
life. This stage is a flexible cell that moves and feeds through the formation
of pseudopodia. These are temporary cytoplasm-filled projections of the cell
membrane. Some of the Amoebozoa remain single-celled their entire life
(the amoebas), others congregate into large multinuclear single cells, and
other congregate into multicellular slimy masses (the slime molds).
13. Amoeba
Most amoebas have a soft-bodied cell. They move and feed by means
of pseudopodia. There is a jar with live amoebas. Make a slide of a live
amoeba. They are quite large and can be found using the scanning lens
(4x objective). They move very slowly.
14. Plasmodial slime mold
Slime molds are somewhat similar to fungi because of the filamentous
feeding structures that they sometimes form. All similarities end there.
Slime molds are not fungi.
This organism has both a unicellular and multicellular life stage. The
unicellular amoeboid cells can congregate into a large multinuclear
mass of cytoplasm. This stage can form reproductive structures.
Draw the colony of a live slime mold growing on oatmeal.
13. Name:
14. Name:
The Opisthokonta contain the Kingdoms of Fungi and Animals plus some
smaller groups like the choanoflagellates. One common aspect of these
organisms is the presence of a posterior flagellum sometimes in their live.
Posterior means that the flagellum is at the back or hind end of the
organism. An example is the sperm cell of the animals. A flagellum is
present in some fungi, the chytrids, but has been lost in other fungi. The
close relatedness of fungi and animals has been recognized only recently in
article published in 1987. The choanoflagellates are very similar to the
choanocytes of the sponges (animals).
There are no examples of Opisthokonta in this lab. We’ll dedicate separate
labs to the fungi and animals.
Fig. 2. Some Common Freshwater Plankton
8 – 10
Lab 8: Protists
Here are photos of organisms that were to be viewed on slides and a link to a
video of larger specimens.
Feel free to supplement these images with your own search in Google Images and
Make sure you read through the introduction provided in the lab packet before
you begin so that you have some idea about what you’re looking at.
Make your drawings of the organisms (with names) on a separate sheet of paper
that you can photograph and upload to the Lab 8 Assignment folder on D2L.
Link to YouTube video for part of the lab exercises:

1. Supergroup Excavata
1. Euglena
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA
2. Supergroup Chromalveolata
2.1. Alveolates
2. Dinoflagellate
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA
2. Supergroup Chromalveolata
2.1. Alveolates
3. Paramecium
2. Supergroup Chromalveolata
2.2. Stramenopiles
4. Diatoms
(5. Rockweed: dried specimen in video)
3. Supergroup Rhizaria
6. Foraminifers
3. Supergroup Rhizaria
7. Radiolarians
4. Supergroup Archaeplastida
Green Algae
9. Scenedesmus
4. Supergroup Archaeplastida
Green Algae
10. Volvox
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed
under CC BY-SA-NC
5. Supergroup Amoebozoa
13. Amoeba

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