Watch: Recent microbial discoveries are changing our view of life on Earth

A closer look at protists highlights how much we don't know about life on our planet

An image of a microscopic diatom which has a hard porous cell wall on a black background.

This microscopic diatom, a type of protist, has a hard, porous cell wall.

Dennis Kunkel Microscopy/Science Photo Library/Alamy Stock Photo

Gumdrop with an earring.

That’s what pops to mind when I look at Sebastian Hess’ photos of a kind of plump, violent, single-celled creature he collected from a pond rich in sphagnum moss in southern Germany. The shape-shifting amoebozoan cell, prowling for algal cells to attack, curls its long strand of a flagellum into an earringlike loop.