Protozoan Diversity Part 2

Contributor: Felicia Sabur. Lesson ID: 12011

How can such tiny creatures cause so much agony? When you are sick, do you actually have a "bug"? Explore - and teach about - the world of these nasty parasites, and how they reproduce and move about!


Life Science

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


What do ferns, mushrooms, and sporozoans have in common? What is a sporozoan, and would you want one on your pizza?

In the previous Related Lesson in our Kingdom Protista series, you learned that protozoans are animal-like protists and unicellular heterotrophs.

If you missed, or would like to review either of the first two Related Lessons, find them in the right-hand sidebar.

They are a very diverse group; some are classified by the way that they move, while others are grouped together because they are parasites. In this lesson, you will learn about the last of the four main groups of protozoans, the sporozoans.

Protists that belong to the phylum Sporozoa are called "sporozoans" because they produce spores. Other organisms that produce spores that you may be more familiar with are mushrooms and ferns. Sporozoans are parasites and are usually found in the parts of a host that have a readily-available food supply, like the animal’s blood stream or intestines.

They have a very complex life cycle and use spores to reproduce. A spore is a reproductive cell that can grow into a new organism without fertilization. The sporozoa reproduction cycle has both asexual and sexual phases.

For a detailed description, check out Sporozoa, courtesy of

Toxoplasma gondii are members of the sporozoa phylum, and they cause a disease known as toxoplasmosis. This parasite can be found all over the world, and many people who are infected with it do not have symptoms at all, because their immune system protects them from the parasite. However, a toxoplasma gondii infection can be dangerous for pregnant women and individuals who have compromised immune systems. The parasite is present in cat feces and can be transmitted through contact with infected feces.

Plasmodium (Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.) are also members of the sporozoa phylum, and they cause malaria in birds, mammals, and humans. Malaria is a serious disease that occurs in regions of the world with tropical climates. It is spread by females of only certain species of the Anopheles genus of mosquitos. Below is a microscope picture of plasmodium malariae that have infected red blood cells. Which type of movement that you learned about in the previous lesson do you think they use?

Sporozoans reproduce by producing spores, and they are parasitic. Some sporozoans like plasmodium can be very harmful to humans. Discuss with your parent or teacher how the two parasites mentioned in this section can affect your health.

In the Got It? section, you will be quizzed on what you have just learned.

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