any ciliated vase-shaped protozoan of the order Peritrichida (more than 1,000 species), found in both fresh and salt water. Usually nonmotile (sessile), they attach themselves to underwater objects, but a few genera, such as Telotrochidium, are free-swimming. In most peritrichs a posterior disk, the scopula, secretes a contractile stalk for attachment. Some primitive forms, such as the genus Scyphidia, attach directly to an object with the adhesive secreted by the scopula. Peritrichida, lacking uniform ciliation, have conspicuous rows of cilia (short hairlike processes) around the mouth, and there is a posterior ring of cilia in the free-swimming migratory adults and larvae. Reproduction by longitudinal fission differs from the usual ciliate transverse fission. Some sessile genera (for example, Vorticella) are solitary; others (e.g., Zoothamnium) form branching colonies. Peritrichs are coming to serve a useful role in ecological studies as pollution indicators.
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