Anderson, O. Roger Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, New York.
Harley, John P. Department of Biological Sciences, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky.
Last reviewed:October 2019
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A class of the phylum Radiozoa in the Actinopoda. The kingdom Protozoa contains 18 phyla. One of the parvkingdoms (a hierarchical classification between kingdom and superphylum that is controversial and not officially recognized as such) is the Actinopoda (originally a class) containing two phyla: Heliozoa and Radiozoa. Within the Radiozoa is the class Acantharea. These marine protozoans possess a nonliving, organic capsular wall surrounding a central mass of cytoplasm. The intracapsular cytoplasm is connected to the extracellular cytoplasm by fine cytoplasmic strands passing through pores in the capsular wall. When viewed with the electron microscope, the capsular wall in some species appears to be made of many layers, each composed of a fine fibrillar network. The skeletons are made of celestite (strontium sulfate) instead of silica. The basic structural elements are 20 rods that pass through the capsule to the center in regular arrangements (polar and equatorial; see illustration). An equatorial rod forms a 90° angle with a polar rod, and other groups are arranged with similar exactness. This type of cytoskeleton may be modified by the addition of a latticework, composed of plates, each fused with a skeletal rod. Some genera show a double latticework, concentric with the central capsule. The skeletons do not contribute substantially to the paleontological record in marine sediments since celestite is dissolved by seawater. Dissolution is pronounced below 617 ft (188 m) depth. While the protozoan is still alive, however, the cytoplasm appears to protect the skeleton from dissolution.
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