The speedy ciliate
Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve
Scientists have recently discovered that some protozoans can move faster than the blink of an eye. Using ultra high speed video cameras researchers from The University of Texas Marine Science Institute and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have discovered that ciliates with tails can move at speeds up to 0.89 milliseconds, which is 11-33 times faster than their non-tailed counterparts. To put this rapid speed in perspective, it takes 5 milliseconds for a honey bee’s wing to flap and a whopping 300 milliseconds to blink your eye. So why do these single celled animals need to travel at such rapid speeds? Ciliates are at the base of the food chain, which means that they are food for almost everything except for bacteria. Those ciliates with tails have a unique advantage because it allows them a much greater chance to escape from predators.