Diversity, Structure, and Evolution of the Termite Gut Microbial Community

  • Moriya OhkumaEmail author
  • Andreas Brune


The gut of termites is densely populated with microbial symbionts that aid in the efficient digestion of recalcitrant lignocellulose. Despite the formidable unculturability of the resident members, ribosomal RNA-based molecular analyses and other comprehensive and elaborate culture-independent studies of molecular microbial ecology in the past decade have gradually unveiled the complex nature of the intestinal microbiota. The microbial community, whose structure and spatial distribution seems to be characteristic for a termite species (but may differ between genera), consists of mostly novel lineages that seem to have co-evolved or converged with their particular host. A prominent feature of lower termites is the tripartite symbiosis with a variety of flagellated protists that are themselves associated with diverse prokaryotes. Here, the complete genome sequences of several bacterial endosymbionts have disclosed their functional interactions with their host flagellates, but the highly structured and coevolving nature of these associations requires more emphasis in future studies.


Termite Species High Termite Lower Termite Protist Species Protist Cell 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Karen A. Brune for editing an earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Netherlands 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Microbe Division(Japan Collection of Microorganisms), RIKEN BioResource CenterSaitamaJapan
  2. 2.Department of BiogeochemistryMax Planck Institute for Terrestrial MicrobiologyMarburgGermany

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