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Trichonympha is a genus of parabasalid protists that live in the intestines of many, if not most, termite species. They are symbiotes, in that they break down the cellulose in the wood and plant fibers their hosts eat.
Trichonympha resembles teardrops or pears that are wearing wigs. They are extremely motile, and feed by engulfing wood and plant fibers through phagocytosis, which always occurs at the broad ends of their bodies.
As beguiling as a relationship between a wood-eating insect (xylophagous) and its wood-digesting symbiote may seem, further investigations of Trichonympha reveals even more mind-boggling situations.
By itself, Trichonympha lacks the ability to produce cellulase; it requires bacterial endosymbiotes to produce the cellulase to digest its food. It also has spirochete ectosymbiotes embedded in its cell membrane, and together with its flagella these symbiotes give their host its characteristic "wiggy" appearance to grant it motility. The relationship with the spirochetes is particularly intriguing, as researchers are unsure whether the spirochetes move their host around, in the manner a group of excited dogs drag around their dog-walker, or if Trichonympha "commands" them to move it around, much like a charioteer controls the horses of his chariot.
Another, extremely similar metamonad termite symbiote is Mixotricha paradoxa
- Ikeda-Ohtsubo W, Brune A (January 2009). "Cospeciation of termite gut flagellates and their bacterial endosymbionts: Trichonympha species and 'Candidatus Endomicrobium trichonymphae'". Mol. Ecol. 18 (2): 332–42. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2008.04029.x. PMID 19192183.
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