Symbioses in the Termite Gut

Termites, of course, are famous as the organisms that eat wood -- often the wood in your house. However, termites could not feed on wood without the help of symbiotic protists living in their guts. These protists take in wood particles: in the picture of Trichonympha below, in the lower portion of the cell, you can see a mass of granular material that is in fact wood particles being digested. (The actual cell is about 300 microns long.) Trichonympha is only one of several such protists found in the guts of termites.

We thank Erol Kepkep for the use of the pictures on this page.