Vorticella

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The Vorticella is a protist (protozoan) and belongs to the Phyllum Ciliophora.  It is a very interesting, stalked ciliate with an inverted bell shape.  The stalk contains a contractile fibril called a myoneme.  When stimulated, it shortens, causing the stalk to coil like a spring.  

Vorticella usually anchor themselves to small particles of material however, it is not uncommon to see them free swimming.  When they undergo fission, they split along the longitudinal axis in a process called budding.  When they finally split apart, one keeps the myoneme and the other free swims away and grows its own.  The main purpose for the cilia at the top is to sweep food down into the gullet.

There are over 100 different species of Vorticella.

See some more images 1    2    3    4    5

See a beautiful electron microscope image of one here. 

At left you see a close up of the myoneme in action.  This was taken with phase contrast.  Above, you can see the cilia in a circular pattern around the tip as well as the band shaped nucleus (shape of a "C") inside the protist.

 
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