Bugs that Energize Termites

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Science  29 Jan 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5402, pp. 601j
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5402.601j

Spirochetes (slender, long bacteria with a flexible helical shape) are an unusually abundant and diverse component of the microbiota of the termite gut. Leadbetter et al. (p. 686) report the successful culturing of these bacteria and reveal their ability to form acetate from hydrogen and carbon dioxide in culture. Because the bulk of a termite's energy requirement is met by the oxidation of acetate, spirochetes are likely to play a major role in termite nutrition.

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