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Protists & Eukaryotic Diversity

Course Code: BIOL 3402
Faculty: Science & Technology
Department: Biology
Credits: 4.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Lab
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

A course surveying the diversity of eukaryotic life, focusing on the protists. Students will be introduced to the history of protistology, the principles of molecular phylogenetics, the origin of eukaryotes, the impact of endosymbiotic events on the evolution and diversification of eukaryotes, and the cell biology, ecology, and evolution of major protist lineages.

Course Content

1) The History of Protistology

  • The advent of microscopy

  • The first microbial organisms discovered

  • Taxonomy, phylogeny, and systematics of protists based on morphology

 2) Why Study Protists?

  • Biodiversity of eukaryotic life

  • Ecological significance of protists

  • Human impacts by protists

3) Principles of Molecular Phylogenetics

  • Types of molecular data

  • Implications of molecular data on protist phylogeny

4) The Origin of Eukaryotes

  • Rooting the tree of life - molecular and morphological data

  • The Neomuran hypothesis of eukaryote evolution

5) Primary Endosymbiosis and the Origin of Mitochondria

  • Characteristics of mitochondria and plastids

  • Molecular characterization of mitochondrial and plastid DNA

  • Primary endosymbiosis and gene transfer

  • When and how mitochondria originated

  • When and how eukaryotes originated

6) The Supergroups of Eukaryotes, Review of Protist Diversity

  • Review of the current phylogeny of eukaryotes, framed by the recognized supergroups

  • Relationships between supergroups and confidence in current phylogenies

7) The Unikonta: Amoebozoans and Opisthokonts

  • Classifying amoebae

  • Types of pseudopodia

  • The Ramicristate Amoebae (Amoebozoans): Protamoebae and Conosa (Archamoebae and Mycetozoans)

  • Classifying Opisthokonts

  • Flagellar and mitochondrial characteristics

  • Nucleariids and Fungi

  • Ichtyosporids, Choanoflagellates, multicellularity, and the origin of animals

8) Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Endosymbiosis

  • A single primary endosymbiotic event

  • The formation of ‘red’ and ‘green’ primary plastids

  • Secondary and tertiary endosymbiosis and the evolution of plastids

9) The Archaeplastida: Glaucophytes, Red Algae, Green Algae, and Plants

  • Archaeplastida versus the Kingdom Plantae

  • Glaucophyte characteristics

  • Red Algal diversity: Cyanidiophytes, Rhodellophytes, Compsopogonophytes, Bangiophytes, and Florideophytes

  • The paraphyletic nature of the green algae

  • Green Algal diversity: Prasinophytes, Ulvophytes, Trebouxiophytes, Chlorophytes, and Charophytes

  • Embryophytes: the land plants

10) The Rhizaria: Radiolarians, Foraminiferans, and Cercozoans

  • Incertae sedis: the Heliozoans

  • Rhizarian characteristics

  • Radiolarian diversity: Acantharians, Taxopodids, and Polycystines

  • Foraminiferan diversity: Monothalameans, Xenophyophores, Textulariids, Rotaliids, Miliolids, and Spirillinids

  • Cercozoan diversity: Gromiids, Endomyxans, and Filosians

11) The Excavata

  • The incredible diversity within the Excavates

  • Excavate phylogenies

  • Hydrogenosomes and mitosomes

  • Jakobids

  • Eopharyngians (Metamonads): Retortomonads and Diplomonads

  • Parabasalians: Trichomonads and Hypermastigotes

  • Oxymonads

  • Heteroloboseans: Schizopyrenoids, Acrasid slime moulds, and Lyromonads

  • Euglenozoans: Kinetoplastids, Diplonemids, and Euglenids

12) The Chromalveolata: Chromists and Alveolates

  • The Chromalveolate controversy

  • Chromists: Cryptomonads, Haptophytes, and Heterokonts (Stramenopiles)

  • Heterokont diversity: Bicosoecids, Labyrinthulomycetes, Pseudofungi, Opalinids, and Ochrophytes

  • Ochrophyte diversity: Eustigmatophytes, Synurophytes, Chrysophytes, Raphidophytes, Bacillariophytes, Xanthophytes, and Phaeophytes

  • Alveolates: Protalveolates, Dinoflagellates, Apicomplexans, and Ciliates

Laboratory activities will emphasize microscopy techniques and exploring the biodiversity of the protist lineages covered in the course.

Methods of Instruction

Instruction will be a combination of lectures and laboratory activities.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will present a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester. Evaluation will be based on the following:









Term examinations   


Final examination





Learning Outcomes

 Upon completing this course, the successful student will be able to describe and explain:

  • the history of protistology
  • the principles of molecular phylogenetics and the usefulness of molecular data as a tool for elucidating eukaryotic phylogenetic relationships

  • our current understanding of the origin of eukaryotes, mitochondria, and plastids, including primary, secondary, and tertiary endosymbiotic events and their impact on eukaryotic diversity

  • the systematics of the currently recognized supergroups of eukaryotes and the diversity and biology of selected protists from each group.

course prerequisites

(BIOL 1110 & 1210) or BIOL 1310



curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.