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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
Instructor: 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.

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.
amoeba

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.
pseudopod

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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