Monday, March 30, 2009

That's Cool, I Guess...

Termites lack the enzyme to digest cellulose (which happens to inhabit wood, if ya didn't know), so they have a symbiont that lives in their guts. It's a member of genusTrichonympha, so we'll call him Trichy. He digests the cellulose that termites eat. So far, so good.

The problem comes when the termite sheds its skin. When it does this, it sheds out the lining of its stomach, which contains poor little Trichy, who presumably dies fairly rapidly. The termite is then left without any means of digesting cellulose, until it feeds off of the anal secretions of other termites, introducing more Trichy into the stomach, and allowing it to eat wood.

"Some primal termite knocked on wood, and tasted it, and found it good,
And that is why your sweet Aunt May fell through the parlor floor today."
--Ogden Nash

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