Paramecium caudatum in conjugation

Paramecium caudatum are unicellular organisms belonging to the genus of protozoa of the phylum Ciliophora. They are less than 0.25mm in length and covered with minute hair-like projections called cilia. The cilia are used in locomotion and during feeding. They are often called slipper animalcules because of their slipper-like shape.

Paramecium have 2 nuclei (a large macronucleus and a single compact micronucleus). They cannot survive without macro-nucleus and cannot reproduce without micro-nucleus. Reproduction is either by asexual binary fission or occasionally by conjugation (sexual) and rarely by endomixis, a process involving total nuclear reorganization of individual organisms. During binary fission a fully grown organism divides into two daughter cells. Conjugation consists of the temporary union of 2 organisms and the exchange of micro-nuclear elements. Without the rejuvenating effects of conjugation a paramecium ages and dies. Only opposite mating types, or genetically compatible organisms, can unite in conjugation.

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