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Chromista vs. Protista: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 30, 2024
Chromista are primarily photosynthetic organisms with chlorophyll c, while Protista are diverse, mostly single-celled organisms without a specific type of chlorophyll.

Key Differences

Chromista, a kingdom of eukaryotic organisms, is distinct for its members containing chlorophyll c, typically found in algae. Protista, another eukaryotic kingdom, encompasses a wider range of organisms, including both photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic species, but lacks chlorophyll c.
In terms of cellular structure, Chromista are noted for their unique chloroplasts, often derived from secondary endosymbiosis involving red algae. Protista, on the other hand, display a wide variety of cellular structures, with some having simple chloroplasts from primary endosymbiosis and others lacking chloroplasts altogether.
Chromista includes organisms like diatoms, brown algae, and water molds, showcasing a range of aquatic and terrestrial life forms. Protista is even more diverse, with members like amoebas, paramecium, and euglena, occupying various ecological niches.
In terms of ecological roles, Chromista often play key roles in aquatic ecosystems, particularly in carbon fixation and as part of the food chain. Protista, with their diversity, are involved in everything from nutrient cycling to causing diseases like malaria.

Comparison Chart

Chlorophyll Type

Contains chlorophyll c
Lacks chlorophyll c

Cell Structure

Chloroplasts from secondary endosymbiosis
Varied, including simple chloroplasts

Representative Forms

Diatoms, brown algae, water molds
Amoebas, paramecium, euglena

Ecological Role

Key in aquatic ecosystems, carbon fixation
Diverse, from nutrient cycling to disease

Chromista and Protista Definitions


Chromista encompasses algae, protozoa, and fungi-like organisms with complex plastids.
Brown algae, belonging to chromista, are common in marine environments.


Protista includes organisms that vary widely in form, from algae to protozoa.
Euglena, a protistan, exhibits both plant-like and animal-like characteristics.


Chromista are a kingdom of mostly aquatic eukaryotic organisms with chlorophyll c.
Diatoms, a type of chromista, are crucial for oxygen production in oceans.


Protista are a diverse group of eukaryotic organisms, mostly single-celled.
Amoebas, a type of protista, can be found in both soil and water environments.


Chromista are characterized by their unique chloroplasts obtained from red algae.
The chloroplasts in chromista like kelp are evidence of their red algae ancestry.


Protista can reproduce both sexually and asexually, depending on the species.
Algae, a protistan, often reproduce rapidly through asexual means in suitable conditions.


Chromista includes organisms that are significant in ecological nutrient cycles.
Water molds, a form of chromista, play a role in decomposing organic material in water.


Protista plays a crucial role in many ecological and biological processes.
Some protista are responsible for diseases like malaria in humans.


Chromista often forms symbiotic relationships with other marine organisms.
Certain coral reefs rely on symbiotic chromista for energy production.


Protista is characterized by its members' diverse modes of nutrition and mobility.
Paramecium, a protistan, uses cilia for movement and feeding.


(rare) chromist


Plural of protiston


A provisional group in which are placed a number of low microscopic organisms of doubtful nature. Some are probably plants, others animals.


Eukaryotic one-celled living organisms distinct from multicellular plants and animals: protozoa, slime molds, and eukaryotic algae


Are chromista plant-like or animal-like?

Chromista are mostly plant-like due to their photosynthetic nature, though some are more fungus-like.

What defines protista?

Protista are diverse eukaryotic organisms, often single-celled, without a specific chlorophyll type.

What are chromista?

Chromista are eukaryotic organisms, mostly aquatic, with chlorophyll c and complex chloroplasts.

How do chromista and protista reproduce?

Chromista primarily reproduce asexually, while protista have varied reproductive methods, both sexual and asexual.

Do protista include multicellular organisms?

While mostly single-celled, some protista, like certain algae, can form multicellular structures.

What is the ecological importance of chromista?

Chromista play key roles in aquatic ecosystems, particularly in carbon fixation and as food sources.

What is the habitat range for chromista?

Chromista are found in a variety of habitats, mostly aquatic, including oceans, rivers, and moist terrestrial areas.

Can chromista be harmful?

Some chromista can be harmful, like those causing algal blooms or potato blight.

Can protista cause diseases?

Yes, some protista, like the malaria-causing Plasmodium, are pathogenic.

Are chromista found in freshwater?

Yes, chromista such as certain algae and water molds are found in freshwater environments.

Are all chromista photosynthetic?

While many are, some chromista, like water molds, are not photosynthetic.

Are protista easy to classify?

No, due to their diversity, classifying protista is complex and often debated among scientists.

Do chromista form colonies?

Some chromista, like certain algae, can form colonies, but they are not truly multicellular.

What is the role of protista in food webs?

Protista can be primary producers, decomposers, or even predators in various food webs.

Do protista have a defined nucleus?

Yes, as eukaryotes, protista have a well-defined nucleus.

What kind of mobility do protista have?

Protista exhibit diverse mobility mechanisms, from flagella to pseudopodia.

How do protista contribute to the environment?

Protista contribute to nutrient cycling, ecological balance, and some are primary producers in ecosystems.

What is the cell structure of chromista?

Chromista cells often have unique chloroplasts from secondary endosymbiosis and a complex cell structure.

Do protista have complex life cycles?

Many protista have complex life cycles, especially those that are parasitic.

Are chromista and protista closely related?

While both are eukaryotes, they represent distinct kingdoms with different characteristics and evolutionary histories.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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