Ciliates on Axial

Colonial ciliates are single celled organisms, members of Kingdom Protista. 

Blue Ciliates (Folliculinopsis sp.)

Feathery blue cilliates thrive in a diffuse flow site at the base of the hydrothermal chimney “Escargot” in the International District hydrothermal field. Also visible in the background are limpets and snails and a red scale worm.

This deep blue, single celled protist resides on basalt substrates and is very common surrounding hydrothermal vents along the Juan de Fuca ridge.They are colonial creatures that live inside of self-constructed tubes called loricae, from which extend two arm-like appendages. They are one of the first colonizers to a vent field, and may help to initiate the colonization process. Due to the high concentrations of bacteria found on and in the ciliates, studies looked at possible evidence of a bacterial-protozoan symbiotic relationship, finding that such a relationship did exist and was the first of its kind to be discovered. While the bacteria gain a habitat for survival, the protozoa obtain food and protection via chemical mechanisms from the bacteria.