Symbiotic Associations with Prokaryotes

It is long known that most of the gut flagellates are associated with prokaryotes (Pierantoni 1936; Kirby 1941; Ball 1969; Bloodgood and Fitzharris 1976; Dolan 2001). In view of the enormous biovolume of protozoa in the hindgut of lower termites and the resulting cell surface area available for colonization, it is not astonishing to find that the vast majority of the prokaryotes in the dilated part of the hindgut - approx. 90% in the case of Mastotermes darwinien-sis (Berchtold et al. 1999) - is associated with the protozoan fraction.

The associations between prokaryotes and protozoa seem to be quite specific. For Reticulitermes santonensis, it has been shown that the structure and composition of the bacterial community associated with the protozoan fraction is clearly different from that of the hindgut wall or that freely suspended in the hindgut fluid (Yang et al. 2005). In situ hybridization of hindgut contents with phylogenetic probes specific for the epibionts or endosymbionts of certain gut flagellates did not detect any unassociated target cells (Stingl et al. 2004, 2005).

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