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Considered one of the largest eukaryotes, protists refer to single-celled organisms that can either be an animal, fungi, or plants, depending on the organelles they contain. Due to the unspecific nature of the organism, traditional forms of classification do not allow for proper classification; thus, the organisms have their specific kingdom named Protista (Margulis L., 1990). Animal-like protists are commonly known as protozoans with a motility structure, making them heterotrophic. Since plant-like protists can make their food through photosynthesis, they are referred to as autotrophic protists. Most of autotrophic protists are aquatic organisms with no motile structure. However, these organisms have specialized organelles that work in tandem, allowing the accomplishment of the expected functions of the organism, whether as plants or animals. There are several general characteristics exhibited by protists, including; the switch feeding mode between autotrophic and heterotrophic; most of them have mitochondria, budding, and binary fusion are the primary mode of reproduction, and they are found in multiple ecological niches.

Despite the difficulties with traditional classification, protists can be categorized using different parameters, including cytoplasmic organelles, nuclear structure, nature, diversity, and the presence of ectoskeletol structures. With the named conditions, there are two main categories of protists: autotrophs and heterotrophs. The primary focus of this essay is on autotrophs providing relevant examples as well as their benefits and harmful effects on humans. Autotrophic protists are immobile organisms that appear to be plant-like despite having low tissue organization. Autotrophs are responsible for most of the photosynthesis activities in our environment; thus, they can make their food. Further categorization of these protists is facilitated through the different photosynthesis pigments, namely chlorophyll, phycoerythrin, or fucoxanthin (BiologyDictionary, 2020). Giant kelp is one of the common examples of autotrophs responsible for the formation of underwater forests found in shallow oceans with an adequate supply of light and nutrients. Besides chlorophyll, giant kelp contains fucoxanthin which is responsible for its brown color.

Figure 1: Gaint Kelp

There are various effects of these protists on human life, both negative and positive. One of the benefits is that they provide a source of food. From the explanations, autotrophs can make their food through photosynthesis. For example, giant kelp provides a proper food source for sea animals, which humans then consume, thus providing a vital food source. Also, the protists have a significant impact on the ecosystem by producing oxygen essential for human beings’ survival. Most examples of autotrophic protists are algae, which provide oxygen as a by-product estimated at 80% of the oxygen produced within our environment (Chandler, 2018). The oxygen produced is utilized by humans within the respiratory system, ensuring humans’ continued survival within the ecosystem. Besides the benefits gained from the protists, these organisms have several harmful effects, the common one being malaria (Haak, 2020). The disease is caused by plasmodium, which is an immobile organism that uses mosquitoes as hosts, thus being able to move from one person to the other, leading to a high infection rate, which leads to death if not adequately treated. Other harmful effects include; sleeping sickness and giardiasis. Therefore, autotrophic protists utilize hosts to move from one place to the other, leading to both positive and negative impact on human life.


BiologyDictionary. (2020). Protist. Biology Dictionary.

Chandler, F. (2018). What Are the Benefits of Protists? Sciencing.Retrieved from:

Haak, D. (2020). Harmful Protists: Definition, Effects & Examples. Study.Retrieved



Margulis L., J. C. (1990). Handbook of Protoctista. Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.


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Protist is a catch-all term that usually refers to single-celled, eukaryotic organisms. Protists can be animal-like, fungal-like or plant-like in terms of the organelles they contain. The animal-like protists have traditionally been called “protozoans.” They are heterotrophic and usually have structures for motility. Plant-like protists are autotrophic and capable of photosynthesis. Many of them are floaters, with no structures for motility.



Protists are among the largest of all eukaryotic cells. They often have specialized organelles that are not found in the cells of multicellular organisms. These organelles combine to accomplish the basic functions that we associate with the entire organ systems of plants and animals. For example, there are organelles in some freshwater protists that maintain osmotic equilibrium by pumping excess fluid out of the cell—a function performed by the urinary system of most animals. There are also protists that do not fit neatly into plant-like or animal-like categories.
1. Study the following video of an ambiguous protist. (The video has no sound.) Then write a short description indicating why you think the protist is more animal-like or more plant-like. (Base your answer on observations of the protist.)

Ambiguous Protist. Introductory Biology: Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity. Retrieved March 27, 2018, from
2. View the following video of two animal-like protists, Stentor and Voticella (audio included), and then answer the questions listed below:

  • Stentor and Vorticella. Introductory Biology: Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity.Retrieved March 27, 2018, from

a.Describe the ways in which Stentor and Vorticella feed; what structures are involved in feeding?
b.Name, and briefly describe, one internal organelle in each protist.

3. Research one additional protist. Insert an image of your chosen protist into your word document (it should be no larger than 2.5-by-3 inches). Describe its beneficial or harmful effects on humans.

Assignment Expectations

Organize this essay assignment using subtitles that summarize the topic from each question above. For example, use descriptive subtitles such as Ambiguous Protist, etc.

Your essay should be approximately 1½–2 pages. Answer each question under the subtitle using complete sentences that relate back to the question. Be sure to use APA formatting throughout your essay, and use 1-inch margins, 12-point type, and double spacing. Include a title page, an introduction, answers to the questions with subtitles, and a concluding paragraph. Remember to include in-text citations within the body of the essay referencing your resources (e.g., Murray, 2014). Also, be sure to include a reference section at the end of your assignment listing all required readings and any additional resources you used to complete your essay. A helpful guide to writing a quality essay can be found in Writing Tips. The Student Guide to Writing a High-Quality Academic Paper also provides links to example essays written within APA format.

Direct quotes should be limited and must be designated by quotation marks. Paraphrased ideas must give credit to the original author, for example: (Murray, 2014). Direct copying from “homework help” websites will not receive credit. Once you have completed your assignment within a Word document, please upload your final version to the Case 3 Dropbox. Please also note your Turnitin originality score and make revisions as needed. Please contact your instructor with any questions.

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