Having a look in the hindgut of termites

If you get a chance to go to Yosemite by car, you should see an insane number of rotten logs in the woods. A ranger explained to me that it’s because of a snow storm causing toppling of trees.

Friday, February 8th, 2019 : Yosemite badly hit by winter storm; several services, housing facilities shut down

All those logs on the floor are progressively rotting and eventually in spring will form a paradise for termites where they will be prosperous.

It’s then quite easy to collect termites, just open a log and you’ll have a high chance to find them moving around.

I forgot to take a picture of them but they should looks like that.

Somehow this time, I took a juvenile with a fine skin on the abdomen and as you can see on the video, I was able to see through.

You will be able to see the Trichonymphas swimming inside the termite’s hindgut.

Wikipedia is explaining very well the complexity of the symbiosis existing in between termites and this flagellates which are about 100μm long :

Wikipedia :

Trichonympha is a genus of single-celled, anaerobic parabasalians of the order Hypermastigia that is found exclusively in the hindgut of lower termites and wood roaches. […] The symbiosis between lower termites/wood roaches and Trichonympha is highly beneficial to both parties: Trichonympha helps its host digest cellulose and in return receives a constant supply of food and shelter. Trichonympha also has a variety of bacterial symbionts that are involved in sugar metabolism and nitrogen fixation.


Regarding the fact that rotten logs form the support of living for termites, I am curious to know if the termites are acting on the living trees to weaken them. This in order to increase the chance of causing toppling of trees, forming their environment.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Manu Prakash says:

    Thibaut and family,
    This is possibly one if the most exciting foldscope post for me in recent memory.


  2. laksiyer says:

    Wow wow wow. What a wonderful live demo of hindgut protozoans. ITs just made my day. There are other protozoans in the gut besides Trichonympa. Now that you have a good source of termites, I hope you can view them ex-situ. some of these are quite large and will make for wonderful imaging. Below is a a nice article on this by Richard Howey.


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