What Are the Characteristics of a Paramecium?

De Agostini Picture Library / Contributor/De Agostini/Getty Images

A paramecium is a single-celled creature that resembles a slipper and mainly lives in bodies of water such as ponds, lakes and rivers. Paramecia belong to the group of organisms called protists.

Like all protists, paramecia are composed of a single cell that does everything necessary for life. The paramecium does not belong to a single species but instead describes a large number of related species with similar characteristics.

Paramecia are motile and move in the water by beating hairy projections called cilia back and forth. This allows the paramecium to move in water more rapidly than other protists.

Unlike single-celled organisms such as bacteria, paramecia and protists have organelles within them, which makes them eukaryotic. Organelles are structures bound by membranes that perform certain functions in a cell. The nucleus, or brain, of a cell is an organelle.

Paramecia reproduce asexually, meaning they do not need other paramecia to procreate. Reproduction occurs when the paramecium doubles in size and then divides in two through the process of binary fission. The two organisms that result from the binary fission are clones of one another.

An oral groove marks one side of the paramecium. Through this oral groove, the paramecium can ingest its prey. Predators of paramecia include other protists as well as organisms such as mussels, worms and water fleas. Among the paramecium’s prey are algae and other protists.