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.

If any reader wishes to ask about any of the above, or to comment, please do get in touch by contacting me Mike Samworth.

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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