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  Exploring Protists



Domain Eukarya; Kingdom Protista

There are many types of protists, but organisms in this kingdom only have a few things in common:

They are eukaryotes – organisms that have cells with a nucleus and membrane-bound organelles. 

They typically live in aquatic or moist environments. Most protists are unicellular (made of only one cell) but they may live in colonies.  But there are some protists are are multicellular (containing more than one cell) 

1. Are protists prokaryotes or eukaryotes?


2. What is a eukaryote?


3. What type of environment would you typically find protists living?


4. Are all protists unicellular? yes or no


5. What are unicellular protists that live together in clusters called?

Obtaining Food / Nutrition / Energy

Protists have a few different methods of obtaining nutrition (food):

  • Some contain chloroplasts (green pigments) like plants, and are autotrophsAutotrophs can use photosynthesis to make their own food, for example Algae. 
  • Then there are others that are heterotrophs and obtain their food by absorbing it from their surroundings, for example Paramecium. 
  • But there are some that can do both autotrophic and heterotrophic methods of obtaining food, for example Euglena.


6. How do the heterotroph protists obtain their food?


7. How do the autotroph protists get their food? Name the process.


8. What is an example of a protist that can do both autotrophic and heterotrophic methods of obtaining food?


9. What is an example of a protist that absorbs their food?


10. What is an example of a protist that makes their own food?


Classifying Protists

Protists are classified by how they obtain food.  Protists are organized into three main groups:

  • Animal – like protists  (heterotrophs)
  • Plant/Algal – like protists  (autotrophs)
  • Fungal – like protists  (heterotroph decomposers)

11. How are protists classified?


Animal – Like Protists – Protozoa

Animal – like protists are often called Protozoa.  Scientists classify them by the way they move around

  • Most are unicellular and microscopic.  You can see them using a compound light microscope. 
  • They are classified as heterotrophs because they absorb their food using vacuoles for digestion. 
  • These are typically found in freshwater, marine, and moist land habitats. 

 12. What are the animal-like protists often called?

13. How do they obtain their food / energy?

14. How are they classified?

15. Go to and DRAW and LABEL an amoeba.


Methods of Protozoa movement:

Cilia small hair-like projections all around the organism
Flagella long, thin, whip-like structure
Pseudopodia "false feet" – temporary extensions of a cell’s cytoplasm that help them move around and change their shapes to absorb their food
Parasites move along with the host they invaded


16. What is the method of movement that uses a long, whip-like tail?

17. What is the method of movement that uses "false feet"?

18. What are cilia?

19. Go to and DRAW and LABEL the paramecium.


Types of Protozoa:

Phylum Sarcodina Phylum Ciliophora Phylum Zoomastingina Phylum Sporozoa
Common Name – Sarcodines Common Name – Ciliates Common Name – Zooflagellates Common Name – Sporozoan
Move by using Pseudopodia Move by using Cilia Move by using Flagella Adults do not move
Example:  Amebas    Example: Paramecium Example: Trypanosoma
(causes African Sleeping Sickness)
Example: Plasmodium (causes Malaria)


20. What is an example of a protozoa that uses a flagella for movement?

21. What type of protist phylum uses cilia? 


Plant/Algal – Like Protists 

Plant/Algal-like protists are eukaryotes that are similar to plants.  Scientists classify these protists by the color of their pigments.

  • They are autotrophic and use chlorophyll and other pigments to harvest and use energy from sunlight.  They produce oxygen for our environment. 
  • They are not considered plants because they do not have true roots, stems or leaves and most have flagella for movement at some time in their life cycles.
  • The Giant Kelp or seaweed are also in this group of algae. 
Green Algae Brown Algae Red Algae Diatoms Dinoflagellates Golden Algae Euglena

22. What are plant/algal-like protists similar to?

23. How are they classified?

24. How do they obtain food/energy?  autotroph or heterotroph?

25. What do they do for the environment?

26. Why are they not plants?

27. Why are diatoms and dinoflagellates so important? (Use the web to research this question)

28. Giant kelp are called what?

29. Red algae produce what substance used as a culture media in lab? (Use the web to research this question)


Fungal – Like Protists 


Fungal-like protists are multicellular eukaryotes that are absorptive heterotrophs.

  • The job of fungal-like protists are decomposers breaking down dead organic matter.  They improve the quality of dirt by putting nutrients back into the ground.
  • They are most commonly known as the slime molds or water molds.  Do not confuse these with the mold you see growing on food or bread. 

30. Are fungal-like protists unicellular OR multicellular?

31. How do they obtain their food?

32. What is the job of the fungal-like protists?

33. Give two examples of a fungal-like protist.


Protists – Review

Click on the box you choose for the correct answer for each question.

34. Protists are

Prokaryote, water based organisms
Eukaryote, water based organisms
Prokaryote, land based organisms
Eukaryote, land based organisms


35. Animal-like protists are often called



36. Animal-like protists are classified by

The way they move.
What they eat.


37. Plant/Algal-like protists are



38. Plant/Algal-like protists are classified by

Color of Pigments


39. Fungal-like protists help the environment by

Decomposing organic matter
Producing oxygen
Producing carbon dioxide
Producing spores