Ciliate

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Karyorelictea
Heterotrichea
Spirotrichea
Litostomatea
Phyllopharyngea
Nassophorea
Colpodea
Prostomatea
Oligohymenophorea
Plagiopylea
See text for subclasses.

The ciliates are a group of protozoans characterized by the presence of hair-like organelles called cilia, which are identical in structure to flagella but typically shorter and present in much larger numbers with a different undulating pattern than flagella. Cilia occur in all members of the group (although the peculiar suctoria only have them for part of the life-cycle) and are variously used in swimming, crawling, attachment, feeding, and sensation.

The term "Ciliophora" is used in classification as a phylum.[1] Ciliophora can be classified under Protista[2] or Protozoa.[3] The term "Ciliata" is also used,[4] as a class.[5] (However, this latter term can also refer to a type of fish.) Protista classification is rapidly evolving, and it is not rare to encounter these terms used to describe other hierarchical levels.

Ciliates are one of the most important groups of protists, common almost everywhere there is water — in lakes, ponds, oceans, rivers, and soils. Ciliates have many ectosymbiotic and endosymbiotic members, as well as some obligate and opportunistic parasites. Ciliates tend to be large protozoa, a few reach 2 mm in length, and are some of the most complex protozoans in structure.

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