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Trichonympha campanula.png
Trichonympha campanula
Scientific classification

Trichonympha is a genus of parabasalid excavates that lives in the hindgut of xylophagous insects in the superfamily Blattoidea. Trichonympha species are present in four termite families (Termopsidae, Rhinotermitidae, Kalotermitidae, and Hodotermitidae) as well as the genus of wood-feeding cockroach Cryptocercus.[1] They are symbiotes, in that they break down the cellulose in the wood and plant fibers their hosts eat.[2]

Trichonympha resembles teardrops or pears that are wearing wigs. They are motile, and feed by engulfing wood and plant fibers through phagocytosis, which always occurs at the broad ends of their bodies.[citation needed]

It was originally suspected that Trichonympha could not digest cellulose without the aid of internal bacterial symbiotes, but studies using cultured Trichonympha demonstrated that the protist is able to metabolize cellulose independently of symbiotic bacteria.[2] The presence of spirochete ectosymbiotes embedded in its cell membrane, and together with Trichonympha's own flagella, give the protist its characteristic "wiggy" appearance and grant it motility. 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 a chariot.[citation needed]

Another similar metamonad termite symbiote is Mixotricha paradoxa.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Ikeda-Ohtsubo, Wakako; Brune, Andreas (2009). "Cospeciation of termite gut flagellates and their bacterial endosymbionts: Trichonympha species and Candidatus Endomicrobium trichonymphae". Molecular Ecology. 18 (2): 332–42. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2008.04029.x. PMID 19192183.
  2. ^ a b Yamin, M. A. (1981). "Cellulose Metabolism by the Flagellate Trichonympha from a Termite Is Independent of Endosymbiotic Bacteria". Science. 211 (4477): 58–9. Bibcode:1981Sci...211...58Y. doi:10.1126/science.211.4477.58. PMID 17731245.

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