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Bacteria from the Gut of Australian Termites

  • M. L. Eutick
  • R. W. O'Brien
  • M. Slaytor
Publication Date
May 01, 1978


The major gut bacteria of the worker caste of nine species of Australian termites, belonging to four families, were isolated and identified to generic level. All species were either facultative anaerobes or strict aerobes. A correlation appears to exist between the major gut bacterium and the family to which the termite belongs. The major bacterium from the two lowest termites, Mastotermes darwiniensis (family Mastotermitidae) and Cryptotermes primus (family Kalotermitidae), was Streptococcus; from four species belonging to the Rhinotermitidae (Heterotermes ferox, Coptotermes acinaciformis, C. lacteus, Schedorhinotermes intermedius intermedius) it was Enterobacter; and from three species of the Termitidae (Nasutitermes exitiosus, N. graveolus, N. walkeri) it was Staphylococcus. Enterobacter was a minor symbiont of M. darwiniensis, C. primus, and N. graveolus; Streptococcus was a minor symbiont of H. ferox, C. lacteus, S. intermedius intermedius, and N. exitiosus; and Bacillus was a minor symbiont of C. acinaciformis and S. intermedius intermedius. M. darwiniensis possessed another minor symbiont tentatively identified as Flavobacterium. C. acinaciformis from three widely separated locations possessed a similar microbiota, indicating some form of control on the composition of the gut bacteria. Bacteria, capable of growth on N-free medium in the presence of nitrogen gas, were isolated from all termites, except N. exitiosus and N. walkeri, and were identified as Enterobacter. No cellulose-degrading bacteria were isolated.

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