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The Stramenopiles, also called Heterokonts, are a clade of organisms distinguished by the presence of stiff tripartite external hairs. In most species, the hairs are attached to flagella, in some they are attached to other areas of the cellular surface, and in some they have been secondarily lost (in which case relatedness to stramenopile ancestors is evident from other shared cytological features or from genetic similarity). Stramenopiles represent one of the three major clades in the SAR supergroup, along with Alveolata and Rhizaria.
|Ochromonas sp. (Chrysophyceae), with two unequal (heterokont) flagella. Mastigonemes not represented.|
|Phyla and subphyla|
Stramenopiles are eukaryotes; most are single-celled, but some are multicellular including some large seaweeds, the brown algae. The group includes a variety of algal protists, heterotrophic flagellates, opalines and closely related proteromonad flagellates (all endobionts in other organisms); the actinophryid heliozoa, and oomycetes. The tripartite hairs characteristic of the group have been lost in some of the included taxa – for example in most diatoms.
Many stramenopiles are unicellular flagellates, and most others produce flagellated cells at some point in their lifecycles, for instance as gametes or zoospores. Most flagellated heterokonts have two flagella; the anterior flagellum has one or two rows of stiff hairs or mastigonemes, and the posterior flagellum is without such embellishments, being smooth, usually shorter, or in a few cases not projecting from the cell.
The term 'heterokont' is used both as an adjective – indicating that a cell has two dissimilar flagella, and as the name of a taxon. The groups included in that taxon have however varied widely, creating the 'heterokont problem', now resolved by the definition of the stramenophiles.