Paramecia and other ciliates are the most complex of all single-celled organisms. The paramecium has an external oral groove lined with cilia and leading to a mouth pore and gullet; food (typically smaller organisms, such as bacteria) is digested in food vacuoles. There are also an anal pore, two contractile vacuoles that regulate the water content of the cell, and two nuclei. The larger nucleus, or macronucleus, is thought to regulate most cell functions, while the smaller nucleus, or micronucleus, is involved in reproduction. Paramecia usually reproduce asexually by cell division but can also exchange genetic information via a process called conjugation, in which two individuals unite at the oral grooves and exchange micronuclei that serve as little packages of DNA, after which the cells divide, yielding daughter cells with DNA from each of the parents.
See A. Jurand and G. C. Selman, The Anatomy of Paramecium aurelia (1964).
Paramecia are widespread in freshwater environments, and are especially common in scum. Paramecia are attracted by acidic conditions. Certain single-celled eukaryotes, such as Paramecium, are examples for exceptions to the universality of the genetic code (translation systems where a few codons differ from the standard ones).
The paramecium approximates a prolate spheroid, rounded at the front and pointed at the back. The pellicle is a stiff but elastic membrane that gives the paramecium its definite shape. Covering the pellicle are many tiny hairs, called cilia. On the side beginning near the front end continuing down half way is the oral groove, which collects food until it is swept into the cell mouth. There is an opening near the back end called the anal pore. The contractile vacuole and its radiating canals — referred to previously for osmoregulation of the organism, are also found on the outside of a paramecium.
Giant amoebas, for instance, have 2 types of endosymbiotes, which seem to function as mitochondria in these amoebas. Another example involves protozoa bacteria that produce cellulases to assist the host protozoan with cellulose digestion (similar to those found in some in termites). This is a cell that appears at quiet ponds.
The paramecium genome has been sequenced (species: Paramecium tetraurelia), providing evidence for three whole-genome duplication.
In some ciliates, like Stylonychia and Paramecium, only UGA decoded as a stop codon, while UAG and UAA are reassigned as sense codons.