A comical beastie
by Mike Samworth
A recent sample taken from my freshwater aquarium yielded a
comical little ciliate that I have not seen for quite some time.
The barrel-shaped organism in question is Coleps and is
said by most authors to be quite common in freshwater. The body
appears to be covered in a layer of plates, rather like a barrel.
These calcareous plates give it a rather scaly appearance and
also prevent the shape from changing. That the plates have a role
in protecting the beast is supported by them often bearing small
lateral teeth and prominent anterior and posterior spines.
The creature in question; Coleps.
It is a rapid swimmer, revolving as it goes along. It seems
in constant motion , and to get a good view some means of slowing
it down is preferable. It is also a voracious feeder, and with
it's sharp teeth and it's rapid revolution will bore big pieces
out of suitable morsels. They prey on the soft parts of things
such as rotifers and I found a small group all feeding off such a
poor unsuspecting creature. One in my sample at least also had
some kind of symbiotic algae inside. The overall appearance is
akin to grapes inside a cut glass tumbler.
Editor's Note: an article showing stills
from a video where two Coleps attack a rotifer laying an
egg, is further evidence that they are nasty little critters!
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