Summary
A protist (ˈproʊtᵻst ) or protoctist is any eukaryotic organism that is not an animal, plant, or fungus. Protists do not form a natural group, or clade, but an artificial grouping of several independent clades that evolved from the last eukaryotic common ancestor. Protists were historically regarded as a separate taxonomic kingdom known as Protista or Protoctista. With the advent of phylogenetic analysis and electron microscopy studies, the use of Protista as a formal taxon was gradually abandoned. In modern classifications, protists are spread across several eukaryotic clades called supergroups, such as Archaeplastida (which includes plants), SAR, Obazoa (which includes fungi and animals), Amoebozoa and Excavata. Protists represent an extremely large genetic and ecological diversity in all environments, including extreme habitats. Their diversity, larger than for all other eukaryotes, has only been discovered in recent decades through the study of environmental DNA, and is still in the process of being fully described. They are present in all ecosystems as important components of the biogeochemical cycles and trophic webs. They exist abundantly and ubiquitously in a variety of forms that evolved multiple times independently, such as free-living algae, amoebae and slime moulds, or as important parasites. Together, they compose an amount of biomass that doubles that of animals. They exhibit varied types of nutrition (such as phototrophy, phagotrophy or osmotrophy), sometimes combining them (in mixotrophy). They present unique adaptations not present in multicellular animals, fungi or land plants. The study of protists is termed protistology. There is not a single accepted definition of what protists are. As a paraphyletic assemblage of diverse biological groups, they have historically been regarded as a catch-all taxon that includes any eukaryotic organism (i.e., living beings whose cells possess a nucleus) that is not an animal, a land plant or a dikaryon fungus.
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