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Scientific classification
Domain: Eukaryota
(unranked) Opisthokonta
Phylum: Choanozoa
Class: Choanoflagellatea

The choanoflagellates are a group of flagellate protozoa. They are considered to be the closest living relatives of the animals, and the last unicellular ancestors of animals are thought to have resembled modern choanoflagellates.

Each choanoflagellate has a single flagellum, surrounded by a ring of actin-filled protrusions called microvilli, forming a cylindrical or conical collar (choanos in Greek). The flagellum pulls water through the collar, and small food particles are captured by the microvilli and ingested. The flagellum also pushes free-swimming cells along, as in animal sperm, whereas most other flagellates are pulled by their flagella. Many choanoflagellates build complex basket-shaped "houses" called lorica, from several silica strips cemented together.

Most choanoflagellates are sessile, with a stalk opposite the flagellum. A number of species such as those in the genus Proterospongia are colonial, usually taking the form of a cluster of cells on a single stalk, but often forming planktonic clumps that resemble a miniature cluster of grapes in which each cell in the colony is flagellated. There exist historical accounts of an extracellular matrix and non-flagellated cells in some colonies, but these accounts are unsubstantiated.[citation needed]

The choanocytes (also known as "collared cells") of sponges have the same basic structure as choanoflagellates. Collared cells are occasionally found in a few other animal groups, such as flatworms. These relationships make colonial choanoflagellates a plausible candidate as representative of the ancestors of the animal kingdom.


  • Snell, EA, Furlong, RF, and PWH Holland. 2001. Hsp70 sequences indicate that choanoflagellates are closely related to animals. Current Biology. 11:967-970.
  • King, N., and S. B. Carroll. 2001. A receptor tyrosine kinase from choanoflagellates: molecular insights into early animal evolution. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 98:15032-7.
  • Lang, B. F., C. O'Kelly, T. Nerad, M. W. Gray, and G. Burger. 2002. The closest unicellular relatives of animals. Curr Biol 12:1773-8.
  • Philippe, H, Snell, EA, Bapteste, E, Lopez, P, Holland, PWH, and D Casane. 2004. Phylogenomics of eukaryotes: the impact of missing data on alignments. Molecular Biology and Evolution. 21(9):123-135.
  • James, T. Y., F. Kauff, C. L. Schoch, et al. mult. 2006. Reconstructing the early evolution of Fungi using a six-gene phylogeny. Nature 443:818-22.
  • Choanobase, the Choanoflagellate genetic library, developed and maintained by the Nicole King laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Choanoflagellate". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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