Protozoa are single-celled organisms microscopic or minute in size. The sea bottom harbors many creeping and attached protozoa of the ameboid or ciliate types, but we shall be concerned mainly with the pelagic forms inhabiting the plankton.
Order Dinoflagellata. In the broadest sense, this group contains both animals and plants, it being a borderline group.
Foremost among the protozoa in the economy of the sea are the dinoflagellates, chiefly because of the capacity of many types to carry on photosynthesis. These holophytic members are considered more fully in the discussion on plants, and for oceanographic studies are properly included in the phytoplankton. It will suffice to mention here only Noctiluca (fig. 225g) as an important representative of the holozoic members, none of which have chromatophores. The soft spherical body of Noctiluca is pale pink in color and bears a conspicuous flexible tentacle. The maximum size is only about 1.5 mm, but, when reproducing in profusion by simple cell division, the countless numbers produced may, by their accumulation, impart a pinkish-red color to considerable areas of surface coastal water, and the masses may be blown into conspicuous windrows or patches resembling “tomato soup.” Noctiluca are voracious feeders, engulfing particulate food such as diatoms and other small organisms. This form is also important as a contributor to the luminescence of the sea.
Order Foraminifera. The oceanographic interest of this order (and also, to some extent, of the following order) lies in the skeletal structures produced by its members. In the foraminifera the shells are variously formed, with one or more chambers arranged in a straight line or in a spiral (fig. 225a). Some are provided with many pores for the projection of protoplasmic pseudopodia used in capturing food. The shells are constructed typically of calcium carbonate, but silica and chitin are also used, and in some
Order Radiolaria. These are planktonic organisms whose skeletons are composed mainly of silica, but the Acantharia contain acanthin (strontium sulphate), and all types possess an inner capsule of chitin. The siliceous skeletons are formed in the most intricate and widely divergent patterns in the different species and are the most beautiful of all objects found in the sea (fig. 225e,f). Upon sinking and mingling with the bottom sediments, the skeletons become the type constituents of the siliceous radiolarian oozes found most abundantly covering the ocean floor in the deep tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean (fig. 253). There are about 4400 species, all marine.
Suborder Tintinnoinea. These protozoans, commonly called tintinnids, are mostly of extremely small size, varying from 20 μ for Tintinnopsis nana to 640 μ for Cymatocylis robusta. Swimming is accomplished by the beating of a whorl of hairlike cilia at the anterior end. Their loricae, or shells, range in shape from tubular to urn-shaped structures that are secreted in a stereotyped fashion by the animal and may or may not include agglomerated foreign material such as bits of sand, diatom shells, and coccoliths (fig. 225c,d). The tintinnids at times are found in vast numbers, especially in coastal water, where they are important feeders on the smallest plankton, the nannoplankton. Their sensitivity to small changes in environmental conditions makes them fluctuate in numbers with seasonal or other changes. There are 692 known species,