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Choanoflagellate

The choanoflagellates are a group of flagellate protozoa. They are considered to be the closest relatives of the animals, and in particular may be the direct ancestors of sponges.

Each choanoflagellate has a single flagellum, surrounded by a ring of hairlike protrusions called microvilli, forming a cylindrical or conical collar (choanos in Greek). The flagellum pulls water through the collar, and small food particles are captured by the microvilli and ingested. It also pushes free-swimming cells along, as in animal sperm, whereas most other flagellates are pulled by their flagella.

Most choanoflagellates are sessile, with a stalk opposite the flagellum. A number of species are colonial, usually taking the form of a cluster of cells on a single stalk. Of special note is Proterospongia[?], which takes the form of a glob of cells, of which the external cells are typical flagellates with collars, but the internal cells are non-motile.

The choanocytes[?] of sponges have the same basic structure as choanoflagellates. Collared cells are occasionally found in a few other animal groups, such as flatworms.



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