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Colpoda inflata.jpg
Colpoda inflata
Scientific classification
Domain: Eukaryota
(unranked): SAR
(unranked): Alveolata
Phylum: Ciliophora
Class: Colpodea
Genus: Colpoda
O. F. Müller, 1773
Typical large colpoda @ 400X
Measurements of large colpoda in micrometres

Colpoda is a genus of ciliates in the class Colpodea, order Colpodida, and family Colpodidae.[1]


Colpoda are distinctly reniform (kidney shaped) and are strongly convex on one side, concave on the other. The concave side often looks like a bite was taken out of it. Although they are not as well known as the paramecium, they are often the first protozoa to appear in hay infusions , especially when the sample does not come from an existing mature source of standing water.


More detailed image of various sized colpoda at 400X

Colpoda are often found in moist soil and because of their ability to readily enter protective cysts will quite frequently be found in desiccated samples of soil and vegetation[2] as well as in temporary natural pools such as tree holes.[3] They have also been found in the intestines of various animals, and can be cultured from their droppings.[4]

Colpoda cucullus has been found inhabiting the surface of plants and seems to dominate the microfauna there. Several species of colpoda have been found in the pitcher plant Sarracenia pupurea, despite the prsence of protease digestive enyzymes in the liquid.[5]

Colpoda also tend to be found in abundance where increased levels of bacteria offer an enriched food source. In Commercial chicken houses, for example, they seemed to be ubiquitous but the species found vary widely from one location to the next, suggesting that these populations represent local soil and aquatic populations which migrated into the new habitat.[6]

In addition to inhabiting a wide variety of microclimates, colpoda can be found almost everywhere around the world where there is standing water or moist soil, even where these conditions are only ephemeral. Colpoda brasiliensis for example was discovered in Brazilian floodplains in 2003.[7] Colpoda irregularis has been found in the high desert region of Southwest Idaho. Colpoda aspera has been found in the Antarctic. Colpoda are also found in the arctic where warmer temperatures and longer summers lead to greater density and species diversity.[8]

Not only is the genus widespread, there are also several species that have nearly global distribution, and, indeed, it has been suggested this may be true of all species, a fact that could be borne out by better investigation.[9] Though colpoda are not normally found in the marine environment, there are many ways they can travel from one continent to another. For example, cysts can become lodged in the plumage of migratory birds, becoming dislodged hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Also, because cysts are so small and light, they can be swept by air currents into the upper atmosphere, and then come down on another continent.[10]


Colpoda conjugation

Colpoda normally divide in cysts, from which two to eight individuals emerge, four being the most common number. This produces genetically identical individuals. The rate at which such reproduction occurs and how it is affected by various environmental conditions has been the subject of a great deal of scientific research.[11]

On rare occasions, colpoda have been observed to divide into 4 individuals without producing a cyst wall. It has been suggested that cystless reproduction was the normal mode of reproduction for colpoda under optimum conditions and that the formation of cysts was a reaction to adverse environmental conditions. However, the knowledge gained by many years of culturing colpoda in hay infusions has shown that this mode of reproduction remains rare despite what would seem to be ideal environmental conditions.[12]

Like many protists, colpoda can also reproduce by conjugation. This involves two colpoda joining at the oral groove and exchanging DNA, then later dividing, redistributing the DNA of the two original colpoda to produce numerous genetically distinct offspring.[13][14][15]

Ecological Role[edit]

Most Colpoda species are either primarily or exclusively bactrivores feeding on a wide variety of bacteria, which include Moraxella. Several scientific studies have been made on the effect of different bacterial diets on the rate of colpoda reproduction. Much has been written on the ecological role that colpoda fulfill in the soil.[16]

In addition to their role as predators of bacteria, colpoda are themselves prey to large variety of species. This includes other protozoans as well as small animals such as mosquito larva,[17] other insect larva, and waterfleas.[18]

Uses by Man[edit]

In addition to their use in education and in a wide variety of scientific studies, colpoda have at times been suggested for more practical uses. Colpoda steini has been suggested as a means to assess the toxicity of soil treated with sewage sludge[19] and as a means to detect chemical contamination in general, possibly in the wake of a terrorist attack.[20]


Colpoda acuta
Found in central Europe, it was first described in a paper published in 1977.[21]

Colpoda aspera
A fairly small species, 12-42 micrometres, noted for being less reniform than other species. Found in Antarctic, Subantarctic [22][23][24]

Colpoda brasiliensis
A small species, 18-33 micrometres, noted for its mineral envelope which acts as a passive defense against predators. Named for the country in which it was discovered.[25]

Colpoda californica

Colpoda cavicola

Colpoda cucullus
A fairly widespread species noted for being the dominant protozoan on the surface of plants.[26][27]

Colpoda discoidea

Colpoda duodenaria
A small to medium-sized species, first described by Charles Vincent Taylor and Waldo Furgason [28] and widely studied for the effects of various chemicals on its excystment process.[29]

Colpoda ecaudata

Colpoda elliotti
A small species, 15-28 micrometres, noted as having been cultured from deer droppings.[30]

Colpoda eurystoma

Colpoda fastigata

Colpoda formisanoi

Colpoda fragilis

Colpoda henneguyi
Widespread medium to large species, 30-80 micrometres, noted for its habit of staying perfectly still for long periods of time, making it easy to photograph live.[31]

Colpoda inflata
Possibly one of the best known and most common species, noted for its fitful resting stage in which it jerks around in a tight circle, frustrating microscopists trying to photograph it live.[32][33]

Colpoda irregularis
This species is noted for a prominent post oral sac and was cultured from moss and soil crust from rocks near desert sagebrush of southwest Idaho.[34]

Colpoda lucida

Colpoda magna
A large species, 120-400 micrometres long. Appears dark at lower powers because of dark structures near the contractile vacuole. Often completely packed with food vacuoles.[35]

Colpoda maupasi
Once thought to be a variety of Colpoda steini, later recognized as a separate species. Classically it was believed to produce only reproductive cysts containing 8 offspring. One strain, however, the Bensonhurst strain, was found to also produce reproductive cysts containing 4 offspring.[36]

Colpoda ovinucleata

Colpoda patella

Colpoda penardi

Colpoda praestans

Colpoda quinquecirrata

Colpoda reniformis

Colpoda rotunda

Colpoda simulans
A medium-sized colpoda with the classic "bite taken out of it" colpoda shape.[37]

Colpoda spiralis
A very unusual species with a large overhang that gives it an almost snail like appearance. It was first found in Arizona [3] and has since been reported in New Mexico and Nevada, with a possible sighting in Northern California.[38]

Colpoda steini
A widely distributed small to mid-sized species, 14-60 micrometres, usually free living but capable of being parasitic to land slugs.[39]

Colpoda tripartita

Colpoda variabili


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  1. ^ Systema Naturae 2000 / Classification
  2. ^ Illustrated story of colpoda excysting
  3. ^ a b Colpoda descriptions
  4. ^ Bradbury, P. C.; Outka, D. E. (May 1967). "The Structure of Colpoda elliotti n. sp.". The Journal of Protozoology. 14 (2): 344–348. ISSN 1550-7408. doi:10.1111/j.1550-7408.1967.tb02006.x. 
  6. ^ Baré, Julie; Sabbe, Koen; Wichelen, Jeroen Van; Gremberghe, Ineke van; D'hondt, Sofie; Houf, Kurt (March 2009). "Diversity and Habitat Specificity of Free-Living Protozoa in Commercial Poultry Houses". Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 75 (5): 1417–1426. ISSN 0099-2240. PMC 2648169Freely accessible. PMID 19124593. doi:10.1128/AEM.02346-08. 
  7. ^ Foissner, W. (January 2003). "Pseudomaryna australiensis nov. gen., nov. spec. and Colpoda brasiliensis nov. spec., two new colpodids (Ciliophora, Colpodea) with a mineral envelope". European Journal of Protistology. 39 (2): 199–212. doi:10.1078/0932-4739-00909. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Finlay, Bland J.; Esteban, Genoveva F.; Clarke, Ken J.; Olmo, José L. (December 2001). "Biodiversity of Terrestrial Protozoa Appears Homogeneous across Local and Global Spatial Scales". Protist. 152 (4): 355–366. PMID 11822663. doi:10.1078/1434-4610-00073. 
  10. ^ Springer The ciliated protozoa: characterization, classification, and guide to the Literature By Denis H. Lynn
  11. ^ Cutler, Donald Ward; Crump, Lettice May (January 1924). "The Rate of Reproduction in Artificial Culture of Colpidium colpoda. Part III". Biochemical Journal. 18 (5): 905–912. ISSN 0264-6021. PMC 1259465Freely accessible. PMID 16743371. doi:10.1042/bj0180905. 
  12. ^ Stuart, C. A.; Kidder, G. W.; Griffin, A. M. (December 1939). "Growth Studies on Ciliates. III. Experimental Alteration of the Method of Reproduction in Colpoda". Physiological Zoology. 12 (4): 348–362. ISSN 0031-935X. JSTOR 30151513. doi:10.1086/physzool.12.4.30151513. 
  13. ^ The Journal of Experimental Zoology, Volume 34
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ google books Modern soil microbiology By Jan D. Elsas, Jack T. Trevors, Elizabeth M. H. Wellington
  17. ^ Cochran-Stafira, D. Liane; von Ende, Carl N. (1998). "INTEGRATING BACTERIA INTO FOOD WEBS: STUDIES WITH SARRACENIA PURPUREA INQUILINES". Ecology. 79 (3): 880–898. doi:10.1890/0012-9658(1998)079[0880:IBIFWS]2.0.CO;2. 
  18. ^ The Ciliated Protozoa Characterization, Classification, and Guide to the Literature Lynn, Denis H. 3rd ed. ISBN 978-1-4020-8238-2 Page 246
  19. ^ Use of colpoda steinii to bioassay the toxicity and bioavailability of heavy metals in a long term sewage sludge treated soil., Campbell, C.D., Warren, A., Cameron, C.M. and Hope, S.J., (1995) British Section of the Society of Protistologists, Annual Meeting, Liverpool, 27–29 March 1995.
  21. ^ Ulrich Buitkamp; Uber die Ciliatenfauna zweier mitteleuropaischer Bodenstandorte (Protozoa; Ciliata). Decheniana (Bonn) 130:114-126, 1977
  22. ^ Biodiversity - SCAR EBA program Taxon Profile
  23. ^ Petz, W.; Foissner, W. (1997) Morphology and infraciliature of some soil ciliates (Protozoa, Ciliophora) from continental Antarctica, with notes on the morphogenesis of Sterkiella histriomuscorum Polar Record 33, Issue 187 307-326pp.
  24. ^ Encyclopedia of Life
  25. ^ Pseudomaryna australiensis nov. gen., nov. spec. and Colpoda brasiliensis nov. spec., two new colpodids (Ciliophora, Colpodea) with a mineral envelope
  26. ^ [1] Population Dynamics of Soil and Vegetation Protozoa American Zoologist 1973 13(1):171-176; doi:10.1093/icb/13.1.171
  27. ^ [2] Microbial ecology of aerial plant surfaces By Mark J. Bailey, A. K. Lilley, T. M. Timms-Wilson page 12
  28. ^ Biography of Charles Taylor
  29. ^ Effects of porphyrins on encystment and excystment in ciliated protozoan
  30. ^ The Structure of Colpoda elliotti n. sp.
  31. ^ Encyclopedia of Life
  32. ^ Colpoda inflata Stokes, 1885
  33. ^ Bhaskaran K, Nadaraja AV, Balakrishnan MV, Haridas A (March 2008). "Dynamics of sustainable grazing fauna and effect on performance of gas biofilter". J. Biosci. Bioeng. 105 (3): 192–7. PMID 18397767. doi:10.1263/jbb.105.192. 
  34. ^ micro*scope
  35. ^ Encyclopedia of Life
  36. ^ Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology Morphology and Life History of Colpoda maupasi, Bensonhurst Strain MORTON PADNOS 1 , SOPHIE JAKOWSKA 1 ROSS F. NIGRELLI 1 1 Protista Research Laboratory, Brooklyn, New York; College of Mount St. Vincent, New York; New York Aquarium, New York Zoological Society, New York 10.1111/j.1550-7408.1954.tb00805.x
  37. ^ Protist images
  38. ^ Colpoda Spiralis ? found in Northern California
  39. ^ Colpoda steini, a Facultative Parasite of the Land Slug, Agriolimax agrestis Bruce D. Reynolds The Journal of Parasitology, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Feb., 1936), pp. 48-53