Reference Work Entry

The Prokaryotes

pp 439-474

Symbiotic Associations Between Termites and Prokaryotes

  • Andreas Brune


The symbiotic associations of termites with microorganisms comprise different levels of interaction, ranging from the extracorporal cultivation of fungus gardens to the most intimate associations, where bacteria reside intracellularly in dedicated bacteriocytes. However, the majority of prokaryotic symbionts of termites are located in the intestinal tract, where they are free-swimming, attached to the gut epithelium, or associated with the intestinal protozoa (Fig. 1). Although it is suggestive that the gut microbiota of termites is directly or indirectly involved in the digestion of lignocellulose or has other nutritional implications, the exact nature of the associations and possible benefits for the partners of each particular symbiosis are often far from clear. Therefore, this chapter will use the term “symbiosis” in its broader sense, as originally defined by Anton de Bary (de Bary, 1878). A definitive classification of the associations into the different c ...

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