What is Opisthokonta?


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Image is a A Colonial Choanoflagellate. It appears to be a central structure with a series of circular cells on its surface.
A Colonial Choanoflagellate. (credit: By Dhzanette (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choanoflagellate) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

OpenStax Biology 2e

The Opisthokonts are named for the single posterior flagellum seen in flagellated cells of the group. The flagella of other protists are anterior and their movement pulls the cells along, while the opisthokonts are pushed. Protist members of the opisthokonts include the animal-like choanoflagellates, which are believed to resemble the common ancestor of sponges and perhaps, all animals. Choanoflagellates include unicellular and colonial forms, and number about 244 described species. In these organisms, the single, apical flagellum is surrounded by a contractile collar composed of microvilli. The collar is used to filter and collect bacteria for ingestion by the protist. A similar feeding mechanism is seen in the collar cells of sponges, which suggests a possible connection between choanoflagellates and 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.

The previous supergroups are all the products of primary endosymbiontic events and their organelles—nucleus, mitochondria, and chloroplasts—are what would be considered “typical,” i.e., matching the diagrams you would find in an introductory biology book. The next three supergroups all contain at least some photosynthetic members whose chloroplasts were derived by secondary endosymbiosis. They also show some interesting variations in nuclear structure, and modification of mitochondria or chloroplasts.


Clark, M., Douglas, M., Choi, J. Biology 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/biology-2e