Termites colony on the Calitropis wood deep in the desert.

Microbes in the gut form a symbiotic relationship between camels and termites

Evolution trained termites to survive on flora waste

The unique creature (termites) learned in the long period of evolution – how to survive on the waste of the floral kingdom? Termites are everywhere, (rainforests, buildings, farmlands, wood stores, etc) but the deserts have even more specialized termites. Usually, termites chew up fallen leaves and dead wood everywhere but in the desert ecosystems, they digest the camel manure (hard balls). This way the termites keep such material under control and return back to nature as food for plants, insects, and animals as well as the microbes in the soil.

The camel manure is envaloped by the termites colony in the desert, Alain Abu Dhabi - UAE
Termites break the nut of the camel manure ball

Termites’ gut is the habitat of unique bacteria – Decomposing wood and camel manure in the desert

There is a specialized microbiome in the termites’ gut, enabling them to digest the woody and fibrous materials (with special power in the desert). In the journey of evolution, such bacteria (termites’ gut microbiota) either traveled from the camels’ gut to the termites or vice versa, enabling the camels to act as the largest termite in the desert. Termites, rely on flagellated eukaryotic symbionts in the hindgut to cooperatively digest their wood diet and the same job is done in the camel gut to digest tough cellulosic contents. In short videos, you can see the power of termites on my youtube channel. https://youtu.be/Kqb9LNpPe-A https://youtu.be/2-tm2cFIZSU

Wood in the desert is colonized by the termites

Termites harbor complex gut microbiota, which comprises unicellular eukaryotes, bacteria, and archaea. On the other hand, a study confirmed the camel rumen’s microbiome as a dense and yet largely untapped source of enzymes with the potential to be used in a range of biotechnological processes including biofuel, and fine chemicals, and food processing industries. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6071333/

The termites inhibit diverse ecosystems

But they play a key role in many natural ecosystems. Scientists have known for years that in tropical forests, termites chew up fallen leaves and dead wood, keeping the fallen material under control and shepherding nutrients from the dead material back into the system to be used by other plants, insects, and animals. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/termites-protect-rainforests-climate-drought

Way forward

The termites and the camels are poorly understood as being the pivotal players in the desert ecosystem. I would suggest the young scientists come forward and find the delicate symbiotic relationship between the desert, camel, termites, and microbiome.

6 thoughts on “Microbes in the gut form a symbiotic relationship between camels and termites”

  1. Pingback: The Camel Dairy Queen – Khawar breed of Salalah Oman – SUSTAINABLE FARMING FOR FOOD AND HEALTH

  2. Many animals rely on microbial communities in their guts to aid the process of digestion. For instance, there are approximately 39 trillion bacteria in the human gastrointestinal tract. However, the termite gut microbiome is among the most complex of any animal group. It comprises a diverse mixture of bacteria, protists and fungi which can break down and extract essential nutrients from materials that are indigestible to most animals, such as lignocellulose in wood.

  3. Hi, I found this topic very original and opening a new domain of research with camelids as already done in human or some domestic species.
    A physiologist, I know that gut microbiome is part of the body, connected to their environment with complete interconnection between animal in a form of win-win symbiosis. Around birth, the gut microbiome growth and stabilize by merging different sources of bacterias as those coming from milk and udder skin microbiome of the mother and others coming from environment. In ruminants, where solid food arrivse later, the gut microbiome will be changed and enriched by plant and soil microbiome eaten by animals as described in this work with microbiome of termites that can influence the gut microflora of camels and may be making them more able to digest rich cellulosic structures. It is interesting to underline that you could change this microbiome by specific food (example of pré and probiotic) and improve some other physiological function as immunity, digestion, reproduction ability or behavior. A complete destruction of microflora by antibiotics and irradiation in an animal 1 and new inoculation by microbiota transfer from another animal (2) can change physiology and behavior or the animal 1 by those of animal 2 (well described with stress senstivity or immune capablity by example in birds or pigs). But with time, the gut microbiota always recover the initial composition and animal 1 will always recover its initial microbiome. That signify that, by example, camels living in a specific environment, with specific food could loss (or gain) some capabilities if changed of ecosystem. There is also a genetic link with microbiota that suggests an interaction with epigenetic pathways and thus the history of life of ancesters. It is just another way to prove that changing the equilibrium of any ecosystems could modify deeply the animal physiology and behavior. It is probably the reason for what camels migrating from Asia to Africa evoluate as well morphologically and physiologically to adapt to their environment. If now, a part of camels enter in more intensive way of breeding and production with less various but richer food supply, they could again evoluate positively or negatively depending of the functions studied) and became different and their microbiome could be one of the level of theses mutations. A lot of research subjects could be opened like the effect of different microbiome on digestion ability of some king of foods, the effects of some pré-biotics on animal efficiency, immunity.., the effects of microbiota on behavior (Agressiveness..) and so on. An international network as yours with possibility to qualify a lot of specific environment and breeding system could be an help to evaluate differences between animals and relations with their microbiota…

    1. Thanks very much for your elaborative and well explained feedback and reply. Yes, the symbiotic relationship and the cultural diversity of the microbiota is very important for the health and wellbeing of all animals and human kind. I have been working with the camels since many years and found that the camel is very wise while keeping himself fit and healthy. To enrich and diversify the gut microbiota, the camels hardly scip anything to eat, all types of vegetations and eat little quantity from each plant and walk away. The camel this walk walk for up to 40 KM a day.
      I have seen the camels eating their manure balls again, especially in the morning and enrich the gut microbiota. The same is done by the rabbits in wild. The camel and rabbit have this habbit together. This way they have the strongest microbes to digest the complex fiber of the woody vegetation.
      The camel is really an amazing creature, we have organized a network with the name of GCRDN (Global Camel Research and Development Network). The network will support one research with a small grant annually about the unique ideas in camels especially in the camels habitats. I would love to have you in our network and we float our unique ideas further.
      Best regards and thanks once again.

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