One-Celled Life Swallows Algae ... Model for how we have Mitochondria!

I think this is a pretty important finding … buried within one of the hundreds of YouTube videos on Evolution !

Protists that fed on algae cells swallowed some that would not be digested and did not die… and they were lucky they did! Those algae cells helped the Protists survive starvation - - and provide an exquisite parallel to the acquisition of proto-mitochondria by one celled life ages ago…

Link to YouTube video:

1 Like

When scientists started to starve the protists of normal food supplies… the protists that had un-digestable algae within them tended to live longer … deriving nourishment from the “waste products” that plants produce …

A parallel can be easily drawn to the organelles known as mitochondria, that have their own genetic codes… and evolve independently of the genetic material located in the nucleus!

Have any of the Biologists here in BioLogos read anything more about these experiments?

This sounds like the work of Lynn Margulis, who was not a evolutionist, but an ecologist.

It demonstrates that evolutionary breakthroughs are often the result of symbiosis, not competition for survival.


Wow. That was really fascinating. What marvels God hath wrought. :slight_smile:

1 Like

I haven’t watched the video (sounds pretty clickbaity) but there are a lot of interesting examples of endosymbiosis that probably are what the video is screaming about.

Endosymbiotic associations within protists


I assure you, @sfmatheson, the video is part of a serious effort to point out things about early evolution that lots of people don’t hear about.

Some of the animations are a little simple… perhaps to appeal to younger students, or to save money, but the script is top notch.

I’m the one trying to “zap it up” to get some clicks going.

Have you ever heard of a one celled organism eating a meal of algae… and the algae resists digestion and keeps living inside the one-celled animal?

I didn’t think it was even possible. Sounds like a High School Science project on Crack! I think it would be amazingly compelling to repeat the laboratory work!!!

@sfmatheson, great link!

Here’s a worthy quote for others who haven’t had a chance to read the article yet:

" It has been estimated that about 5 per cent of all algal cells in natural populations are likely to contain endosymbiotic bacteria (Surek & Melkonian 1983). Countless free-living amoebae and ciliates house bacterial endosymbionts (Fokin 2004; Schmitz-Esser et al. 2008)."

" Amoebal hosts have lately attracted considerable scientific interest as they are hypothesized to represent

(i) ‘training grounds’ for pathogens, adapting bacteria to intracellular environments (Molmeret et al. 2005), "

(ii) genetic ‘melting pots’ promoting cross-species conjugation as a result of the co-occurrence of different intracellular bacteria in amoebae (Ogata et al. 2006), and (iii) reservoirs for pathogens enabling their survival outside their specific host species (Greub & Raoult 2004; Horn 2008)."

“Unfortunately, for the majority of the endosymbiotic bacteria reported in protists, still not much more than a morphological description is available, precluding any conclusions about their physiological role as well as a clear recognition of the bacteria as endosymbionts, pathogens or prey.”

It’s simple symbiosis. Protist supposedly lost its mitochondria, so you have it backwards.

Either way, why would that be “Model for how we have Mitochondria”?


And so your education continues:

  1. There is Plenty of literature on how mitochondria, with its own genetic code, appears to have been an independent or quasi-independent organism… that eventually was able to survive within the cell structure of a life form that swallowed it in order to digest it. The Proto-mitochondria, like the algae swallowed by the protest, resisted digestion, and continued to live within the organism.

[EDIT: text newly added] And while the host cell started to benefit from the bi-products of the proto-mitochondria, certainly the mitochondria benefited greatly as well . . . living on the nutrient soup of the host cell, and suddenly being protected from past predators - - except for those predators of the host cell itself.

  1. Do you know what a Protist is? Why would you say that protists lost their mitochondria?

  2. And now you know why mitochondria and the algae in the laboratory work seem to follow the same speculation for how simple cells became more robust through accidentally acquiring a symbiotic life form that refused to be digested.

Note: I am using the term “refused” as a metaphor… not as a decision by a one celled creature.

I don’t think he knows what a protist is. He found an article about one (the very first) that has lost mitochondria and…off we go!

1 Like

He addressed your question rather thoroughly, I thought.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 6 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.