Ciliates are protozoans which are covered with cilia. The "Holotricha" are covered completely with cilia, the "Peritricha" bear cilia only around the oral groove. All ciliates possess two different nuclei: The "macronucleus" and the "micronucleus". Amateurs sometimes confuse peritrichic ciliates with rotifers, but the multicellular rotifers always show a continuously moving "mastax" the ciliates don’t have.

Ciliates usually live directly on the surfaces of different substrates; some species are sessile, some form colonies. Although ciliates are non-planktic organisms they occur always in samples of microplankton.

Ciliates must be studied alive. Contact with fixing agents leads to instant contraction. Nevertheless fixation and staining or impregnation with silver is possible but needs much skill and special chemicals.

The quick movement of ciliates can be reduced by adding some quince slime, gelatine 2% or a solution of Polyethyleneglycol. Ciliates can gently be killed using a solution of Nicotine (solution used for e-cigarettes). Examination using brightfield microscopy provides sufficient pictures, but the use of phase contrast or differential phase contrast is to be preferred. Sometimes darkfield microscopy can be applied successfully.

The pictures on display have been taken by Dr.K.Spiekermann, a member of our group. The pictures have been downsampled, the tinge has been readjusted.


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Copyright: Dr.K.Spiekermann