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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.
It was originally suspected that Trichonympha could not digest cellulose without the aid of internal bacterial symbiotes, but studies using cultured Trichonympha easily demonstrated that the protist is cable of metabolizing cellulose independent of symbiotic bacteria. 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. 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.
- Yamin. "Cellulose metabolism by the flagellate Trichonympha from a termite is independent of endosymbiotic bacteria". Retrieved 1981. Check date values in:
- Goenczy, Pierre; Desfosses, Ambroise; Maheshwari, Aditi; Hachet, Virginie (August 3, 2012). "Cartwheel Architecture of Trichonympha Basal Body". Science 337 (6094): 552. doi:10.1126/science.122278. PMID 22798403.
- Tai, Vera; James, Erick; Perlman, Steve; Keeling, Patrick (March 2013). "Single-Cell DNA Barcoding Using Sequences from the Small Subunit rRNA and Internal Transcribed Spacer Region Identifies New Species of Trichonympha and Trichomitopsis from the Hindgut of the Termite Zootermopsis angusticollis". PLoS ONE 8 (3): e58728. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058728. PMID 25286971.
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