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Arcella vulgaris
Arcella vulgaris

Genus Arcella  Ehrenberg, 1832

Diagnosis: Test more or less circular with a central invaginated opening, surrounded by a collar in many species. Test completely organic, composed of box-like building units arranged in a single layer and cemented together, resulting in an areolar surface. The size of the building units differs per species. Young shells are colorless, older ones turn brown due to the storage of iron and manganese in the building units. Most species are binucleate, but several species are multinucleated. Nuclei always vesicular. Several contractile vacuoles. Cell does not fill the test, fixed with small epipodia attached to the shell wall. Cystoid, within test. No pores around the aperture.

Arcella vulgaris
Morphology of Arcella. VA – ventral surface, C –  apertural collar, DA – dorsal surface, F – funnel-shaped invagination, A – aperture, B – basal border (modified after Deflandre, 1928).

Arcella species have more or less umbrella-shaped shells with a central invaginated aperture from where lobopodia, finger-like pseudopodia, emerge.  In dorsal view the shell ranges from circular or broad elliptical up to an irregular square shape. In lateral view the test varies from flattened discoid till spherical. Most species have hemispherical shells. The aperture is normally circular and in some species elliptical, in many species surrounded by a tube, but never with  a ring of pores.

Arcella is a genus of testate amoebae and one of the largest and most common testacean genera. Over 50 species, subspecies and varieties have been described, but many descriptions are not adequate or based on artificial criteria. Therefore it is not always easy to identify species. An important characteristic is the shape of the test in lateral view, which is in practice not so easy to observe.

Species with pores around the aperture are grouped in the genus Galeripora.

Arcella
Arcella
Detail of Arcella shell, with pseudopodium (p) and epipodia (e)
The test is completely composed of organic material, and is transparent in young Arcella, but browns while aging due to the progressive deposition of iron and manganese compounds. In the building process organic granules are arranged in a single layer en cemented together, resulting in a hexagonal honeycomb like structure. Contrary to other genera, no sand grains or other foreign bodies are inserted to build the test.
Arcella
Arcella shell, n=nucleus

The nucleus is always vesicular. Most species are binucleate. There are also many contractile vacuoles present. Arcella species can develop vacuoles of carbon dioxide in their cytoplasm to float up to the surface of the water.

Arcella
Arcella
Left: Arcella with three nuclei, within a population where two nuclei are normal, and right: Arcella gibbosa, 80 µm in diameter
Arcella mitrata
Surface structure of Arcella mitrata

Arcella species inhabit freshwater pools, eutrophic waters, marshes, mosses, as well as wet foliage. Few species can also be found in soils. They nourish on diatoms, unicellular green algae or animal protozoa such as flagellates and ciliates.

Arcella
Three Arcella specimens joined together in one large pseudopodium.
Arcella crenulata
Arcella crenulata
Arcella
Arcella‘s in the surface layer (kaam)
Arcella
Arcella spec., specimen with one nucleus
Arcella
Arcella spec. from the same sample as the one above. This one and also other specimens had two nuclei.
Arcella
Arcella specimen, with several contractile vacuoles.
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