Pseudopods: Definition & Function

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  • 0:00 Pseudopods Defined
  • 0:55 The Function of Pseudopods
  • 1:40 Types of Pseudopods
  • 2:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

Expert Contributor
Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

Extensions of your body that can change shape and help you catch food - sounds mysterious, doesn't it? In this lesson, you will learn about pseudopods, which help tiny critters called protozoa move and capture food.

Pseudopods Defined

Imagine you are enjoying a summer day at the lake. You have been water skiing, tubing, and now you're sitting on the beach watching the sunset. Meanwhile, a small monster is making its way to your brain. It entered your nose while you were in the water and is now using chemicals excreted by nerve cells to locate and consume your brain. It will take about 15 days before you show symptoms, but in the meantime, this deadly creature is using enzymes to dissolve your brain tissue. You'll be dead a week or so after your first symptoms.

This brain-eating zombie is actually an amoeba, specifically known as Naegleria fowleri. Amoeba, like N. fowleri, are a diverse group of tiny organisms that use pseudopods for at least part of their life cycle. Pseudopods, or false feet, are projections that can appear and disappear from the organism's body.

The arrows in this picture are pointing to the pseudopods.

The Function of Pseudopods

Pseudopods are actually extensions of the cytoplasm, or the thick liquid that is inside organisms like amoeba. The organism can change the shape of the pseudopod, making it move, appear, and disappear.

The pseudopods are used in movement and as a tool to capture prey. In order to move using pseudopods, the organism pushes cytoplasm towards one end of the cell, which makes a projection, or pseudopod, off the cell. This projection holds the critter in place, and the rest of the cell can follow, thus moving the organism forward. For feeding, organisms extend their pseudopods, engulfing their prey and then digesting them using enzymes.

The arrows in this picture are pointing to pseudopods, which are engulfing the blue-colored prey.

Types of Pseudopods

Pseudopods come in many shapes and are on many different organisms, primarily protozoa, which are single-celled critters that have to consume food, unlike algae, which can make its own through photosynthesis. There are pseudopods that are like stubby fingers. There are pseudopods that are long and thin, and there are even pseudopods that cross over each other, making a branching network.

Euglypha is a type of protozoan that has long, thin pseudopods called filopodia, which can be seen here.

Radiolaria, another type of protozoan, have long, thick pseudopods called axopodia. These are made from microtubules and may overlap.

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Additional Activities

Slime Pseudopods

Envisioning how pseudopods actually work can be challenging for students. In this activity, students will make a classic slime recipe and use it to model pseudopod extension. To do this activity, you'll need one 6 ounce bottle of Elmer's glue, 1.5 tablespoons of contact lens solution that contains boric acid and sodium borate, and 0.5 teaspoons baking soda. You can also add colors to your slime, glitter, or anything else that your students might enjoy. You should also have some erasers or other small plastic objects for your "cell" to "engulf" with its "pseudopods".

  • Safety Tip: Only adults should handle chemicals and anyone with sensitive skin should use gloves when handling the slime. Although the ingredients are non-toxic, they can cause skin irritation for some people. Slime should not be used for extended amounts of time.


In this activity, you're going to be creating slime to use as a model for pseudopods. First, follow the instructions below to make the slime, then go through the steps to model how pseudopods help cells engulf other materials.

  1. Start by squeezing all of the Elmer's glue into a bowl.
  2. Next add 0.5 teaspoons of baking soda and mix.
  3. Add any glitter or additional food coloring you might want here.
  4. Next, slowly add the 1.5 tablespoons of contact solution. Take this step slowly and stir after each addition. If you add too much, the slime will become hard and not stretchy.
  5. Take the slime out of the bowl and knead it slowly until it has the right consistency.
  6. Next it's time to model your pseudopods. Place a small plastic object on the table near the ball of slime. Carefully extend two "arms" from the slime and engulf the object. You can take pictures of each step, or make a movie if you have a smart phone as well!
  7. Play with your pseudopods and practice extending them and engulfing different objects. Notice how the pseudopods need to change shape to engulf different sized objects.


  1. How did the slime represent a cell?
  2. How did the shape of the pseudopods change when the objects were closer or farther way from the cell?
  3. How did the shape of the pseudopods change when the object was smaller or larger?
  4. Do you see any limitations to this model of a cell? Why or why not?

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