Termites Digest Wood Thanks to Microbes
This short video explores the secrets behind termites’ power to digest an abundant source of food: wood.
Termites evolved into wood-eating specialists about 150 million years ago. They rely on microbes living inside their guts to digest cellulose, the main carbohydrate that makes up plant cell walls, and use a unique social behavior to pass the microbes along to their offspring. The video contains footage of the microbes (in this case, protists) living inside the termites’ gut to show what their feast looks like up close.
The “Abbreviated Film Guide” provides a short summary of the film, along with key concepts and connections to curriculum standards. This video is part of the series I Contain Multitudes, hosted by science journalist Ed Yong.
cellulose, digestion, enzyme, metabolism, microbiome, mutualism, symbiont, symbiosis
Warnecke, Falk, Peter Luginbühl, Natalia Ivanova, Majid Ghassemian, Toby H. Richardson, Justin T. Stege, Michelle Cayouette et al. “Metagenomic and functional analysis of hindgut microbiota of a wood-feeding higher termite.” Nature 450, 7169 (2007): 560–565. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature06269.
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
HS-LS1.C, HS-LS2.A, HS-LS2.B
AP Biology (2019)
IB Biology (2016)
AP Environmental Science (2020)
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
Vision and Change (2009)