Everything You Need To Know About Trichonympha Species

Trichonympha is a species of unicellular anaerobic parabasalids of the order Hypermastiga located only in the hindguts of subterranean termites and wood roaches. Trichonympha is an easily recognized cell due to its bell-shaped curve and hundreds of flagella.

Everything You Need To Know About Trichonympha Species

The symbiotic relationship between subterranean termites and/or wood roaches and Trichonympha benefits both groups:

Trichonympha assists its hosts with the breakdown of cellulose in exchange for a steady source of food and protection. Trichonympha also possesses bacterial symbiotic organisms that help with glucose metabolism and nitrogen-fixation.

However, such information needs further elaboration, so if you want to find out more about the classification, life cycle, reproduction, and symbiosis of Trichonympha species, keep on reading to learn everything you need to know!

Trichonympha Species: Etymology

The term ‘Trichonympha’ comes from the Greek language and is a combination of the terms ‘tricho’ and ‘nympha’.In its most basic form, ‘tricho’ alludes to hair, but in this context alludes to Trichonympha’s numerous flagella.

When Joseph Leidy first noticed Trichonympha in 1877, he picked the ending ‘nympha’ due to the fact that their flagella reminded him of the nymphs in the “wonderful drama” he had just seen.

The History Of Trichonympha Species

Joseph Leidy identified Trichonympha for the first time in 1877. He named Trichonympha agilis under the termites’ family Reticulitermes, oblivious to the fact that several Trichonympha species existed.

Though captivated by Trichonympha’s distinctive form, Leidy was not in a position to classify Trichonympha in a specific class owing to the limits of old technologies that existed back in his day.

He concluded that Trichonympha would either be a ciliate, a gregarine, or a turbellarian, all of which proved to be erroneous.

Trichonympha has been intensively investigated since its discovery by Leidy in 1877. Lemuel Cleveland spent much of his life, from the 1930s through the 1960s, investigating the residents of wood roaches and subterranean termites’ hindguts, particularly Trichonympha.

Cleveland’s study is responsible for most of what we learn regarding Trichonympha nowadays.

He concentrated on what occurred in hindgut symbionts when their hosts molted, which had a direct influence on Trichonympha’s lifespan. Cleveland was the first one to characterize Trichonympha’s reproductive cycles.

The SSU rRNA of numerous termites’ hindguts symbionts, such as Trichonympha, was decoded in 2008, enabling the phylogenetic connection among several taxa to be identified.

Termites and wood roaches’ hindguts’ symbiotic organisms are currently being explored in many labs nowadays.

There is still more to learn with regards to the connections between endosymbionts and their host, as well as how such associations influence the termites and wood roaches’ social behavior.

Trichonympha is a species of parabasalid protists detected in the hindguts of lower termite types and cockroaches that eat wood.

Consequently, they have a synergistic connection with their host, meaning that they assist in the breakdown of the cellulose inside the wood whilst the host offers a desirable living situation for them.

Trichonympha species have multiple flagella on the exterior side of their body, making them among the most aesthetically appealing single-celled creatures.

Previously, it was assumed that species of the genus Trichonympha could not metabolize cellulose without the presence of particular synergistic bacteria; nevertheless, subsequent data from several investigations revealed that they could metabolize cellulose even without the presence of these bacteria.

According to several findings, a synergistic association occurs between flagellates (Trichonympha species) and certain bacteria organisms prevalent in this habitat.

Among the most frequent species in this genus are:

  • Trichonympha Grandis
  • Trichonympha Agilis Leidy
  • Trichonympha Burlesquei
  • Trichonympha Campanula
  • Trichonympha Postcylindrica

Trichonympha Genus And Its Classification

Domain: Eukaryota – Species of the genus Trichonympha, like members of the category Eukaryota, contain membrane-bound organelles, along with a nucleus encased inside a nuclear membrane.

Phylum: Metamonada – This phylum is made up of a wide number of anaerobic flagellates that have developed synergistic relationships with numerous species. A few of these species, though, have already been proven to be harmful in character and can infect humans.

Class: Parabasalia – Species of the class parabasalia belong to the super-group called ‘excavata.’ They are unicellular creatures that employ flagella for locomotion and create synergistic connections with diverse species.

Order: Hypermastigida – The Hypermastigida order is made up of highly flagellated protozoa that are commonly located in the guts of termites and wood roaches as they have built a synergistic relationship with the particular creatures.

Family: Trichonymphidae – This family’s individuals have a small and wide shape along with a fairly short flagellum. They feature a ribbon-shaped structure as well as a putative center in the upper half of their bodies. They are commonly discovered in termite guts and roaches that eat wood.

Species of the genus Trichonympha do also belong to the supergroup excavata, which includes several unicellular life forms from the domain Eukaryota. This group includes both free-living and parasitic species found in a variety of settings across the world.

Life Cycle Of Trichonympha Species

In contrast to most microorganisms that require two hosts to fulfill their life cycle, Trichonympha organisms live and grow in the stomach of their hosts and are able to complete their life cycle there.

Everything You Need To Know About Trichonympha Species

Sexual Reproduction

The molting hormones of the hosts influence sexual reproduction in several of the flagellates located inside their hosts.

As a result, reproduction among these creatures is restricted. Sexual reproduction has also been observed to begin around five days before molting in the Trichonympha genus.

Gamonts of the species grow cysts when procreating. This formation is defined by the dissolution of extrinsic organelles, with just a few organelles inside the cell staying intact (centrioles, nuclear cap, and so on).

Gamete development happens inside the cysts and can require up to five days before ecdysis begins.

The cysts are especially crucial throughout this entire time because they shield the organisms as they molt. This resilient version of the flagellate is retained inside the host’s stomach lining, which is the old one, until a new lining forms.

Centrioles inside the cysts begin to move to the cell’s two poles, with a spindle thread developing among them. This causes nuclear division to occur, resulting in the formation of two child nuclei.

A nuclear cap forms surrounding each child’s nucleus. The particular formation is then succeeded by a flagellum expansion, the production of additional parabasal structures, and, finally, the cytoplasmic separation. In the end, the new gametes abandon the cysts and continue to grow.

Throughout their growth, one of the gametes (the egg) produces grains that attract other gametes (sperm gametes) and thus allows fertilization to occur.

The male gamete connects with and enters the female cone, allowing for gamete unification. This produces a zygote, which then proceeds through meiosis (meiosis 1 and meiosis II) to generate four haploid cells.

Asexual Reproduction

The most prevalent mechanism of propagation amongst trichonympha lifeforms is asexual reproduction by binary fission. This unfolds in a series of phases that eventually split the cell into two new daughter cells (mitosis).

The dividing process begins with the separation of the nucleus, which is 2/3 away from the upper part of the rostrum cell. This is succeeded by cytoplasmic splitting when the cell begins to divide at the rostrum.

Finally, the cell splits into two new cells that mature and grow larger due to an increase in cytoplasmic synthesis. Centrioles give birth to the flagella and parabasal body during asexual reproduction.

Trichonympha Species: Morphology And Structure

Trichonympha organisms have been proven to be big in size, ranging from 30 to 110um in height and 21 to 90um in breadth.

Species of the genus Trichonympha have a spherical, round shape and many flagella, that can number in the thousands. These help the flagellate to cross the very sticky microenvironment of the termite’s intestinal lumen, as well as that of the roaches that eat wood.

The front section of the cells (called the rostral caps) is protruded and hence narrower than the posterior half of the cells.

By analyzing the cells under the microscope, it has also been shown that they contain both an ectoplasm and an endoplasm (with the majority of the endoplasm found inside the cells).

Trichonympha life forms, in comparison to other eukaryotic cells, lack mitochondria, while the rostral caps of their cells are not covered by flagella.

Trichonympha organisms also have an unusually lengthy central body in addition to a large number of flagella. They do, nevertheless, differ considerably in length according to the place they are located in.

While basal bodies in the cell’s anterior portion appear to be lengthier, the ones in the cell’s posterior portion were proven to be smaller. Although the exact creation of these entities is unknown, research has indicated that they are essential for flagella development.

Trichonympha Species And Bacteria

A closer look into Trichonympha organisms has shown that they are home to rod-shaped bacteria, such as the Candidatus Endomicrobium Trichonymphae.

A few of the bacteria were discovered to exist inside the protist (as endosymbionts), whilst some were discovered to be linked to the cells at their posterior edge.

Nevertheless, they were not present in-between the flagella due to their tightly grouped nature, which does not enable bacterium adhesion.

Although certain bacteria may absorb cellulose and hence aid in its breakdown inside the termites’ and the cockroaches’ guts, their reciprocal interaction with Trichonympha has been proven to entail nitrification and also the supply of nitrogen – containing chemicals needed by the microorganisms.

Bacterial organisms in this setting have the capacity to fix nitrogen and create nitrogen-containing chemicals that Trichonympha forms do not make during cellulose breakdown.

Trichonympha species profit from this relationship by utilizing the bacterias’ nutrients. This interaction, though, is governed by the protist’s needs.

This means that the area of bacterial adhesion is bigger in organisms that demand more of such micronutrients than in species that require less.

Trichonympha And Termites: A Synergistic Relationship

Much more so than the interaction among Trichonympha forms and bacteria, in which certain bacteria are outwardly connected to the protists, Trichonympha species are only present in the hindguts of termites and that of certain cockroaches.

Whilst termites consider wood to be one of their primary sources of nourishment, they do not have the enzymes needed to metabolize and decompose the cellulose included in this dietary source.

As a result, they rely on Trichonympha species’ ability to break down this chemical into elements that are helpful to protists.

Everything You Need To Know About Trichonympha Species

Termites and cockroaches that consume wood have been discovered to contain enzymes in their salivary glands that commence the breakdown of cellulose in crops. Yet, because the enzymes are inefficient in entirely processing cellulose, this procedure is not finished.

A number of bacteria and enzymes found in the posterior or bulbous part of Trichonympha organisms are capable of breaking down the molecule into sugar, which may subsequently be utilized both by the flagellate and the termites.

Because of the massive amounts of hydrogen created while sugar is turned into fuel for the hosts, the hindguts of subterranean termites and wood roaches are very anaerobic. Because it is such, this produces an ideal habitat for Trichonympha.

Indeed, the interaction between Trichonympha and its hosts is not only advantageous to the latter, but also to Trichonympha.

Trichonympha obtains an anaerobic condition to dwell in, a steady supply of nutrition, and permanent refuge and safety in return for assisting the hosts in digesting their meal.

To be more precise, one of the most significant enzymes utilized for breaking down polysaccharides is glycoside hydrolases.

It accomplishes the breakdown by dissolving the glycosidic linkages of cellulose, releasing digestible byproducts (simple sugars) which may be utilized to generate energy.

Considering that most of the termites subsist on wood and plant matter as their primary source of nourishment, they would indeed be unable to do this in the absence of synergistic protists.

Whereas the termites contain a good number of bacteria that can also dissolve the molecule cellulose, Trichonympha organisms that live and grow inside their guts play a prominent part in this operation, and therefore cellulose metabolism would have been substantially impacted had they not existed there. Indeed, the majority of these insects would have probably died of starvation.

The interaction between the insects and Trichonympha organisms benefits the latter as well. Termites’ hindgut conditions are favorable and sustain the life cycle of Trichonympha genus.

Therefore, as it has been demonstrated throughout the molting process, the flagellates would probably perish if they were not inside the termites.

Based on research, flagellates that stay connected to the termite’s old lining are not able to sustain themselves, but those detected in the new lining of the termite (after molting) multiply exponentially.

Flagellates, like Trichonympha organisms, can easily be affected by environmental changes. As a result, a cyst can grow with host molting to shield the hosts from such modifications.

Although a termite, being amongst the most common creatures on the planet, inflicts substantial damage to wood and wooden structures, it also performs a vital ecological function in that it aids with the decomposition of wood and other plant fibers, adding thus to agricultural productivity and the recycling of nutrients.


Trichonympha organisms and termites do not often lead to diseases in living organisms. Nevertheless, because they assist in breaking down the cellulose in wood and plant fibers, they have now been linked to asthmatic episodes together with their carriers.

Termites contribute to dust in houses by eating wood, which can also worsen asthma and allergy responses in certain individuals.

Termite excrement has also been known to cause allergic responses in certain humans, hence why contacting pest control is recommended in such circumstances.

Trichonympha Species Under The Microscope

With the use of a compound microscope and a saline solution, Trichonympha organisms can easily be examined.

Apart from the compound microscope and the saline solution, you will also need a clean glass slide and coverslip, at least one termite, a Petri dish, tweezers, cutting needles, as well as a stereomicroscope, and a syringe.

How To Examine Trichonympha Species

Step 1: Add a drop of isotonic saline solution on a microscope slide or a tiny Petri dish with a syringe.

Step 2: Hold the termites by their heads with the tweezers and set them on the droplet of the saline solution. There, the glass slide or Petri dish can be positioned on a stereomicroscope to gently extract the termites’ guts.

Step 3: Under the stereomicroscope, cut the termite’s intestines with the aid of cutting needles.

Step 4: Carefully separate the guts into little pieces.

Step 5: Place the gut parts on a microscope slide with a droplet of the saline solution or just utilize the same slide you had for the dissecting procedure.

Step 6: Protect the samples (gut chunks) with a coverslip and examine the glass slide with a compound microscope. You can begin the process with moderate power and gradually go to maximum voltage to gain a clear picture of the flagellate.

How To Observe Trichonympha Species

Trichonympha organisms are distinguished by the great number of flagella on their surfaces when seen through microscopy. Their bodies’ form might be bell-shaped, with a projecting front and a wide posterior.

The Bottom Line

We hope you found this article interesting and useful for your research on Trichonympha species. To sum up, Trichonympha is a genus of parabasalid protists found in the hindguts of most termites and roaches living on wood.

They are symbiotic in the sense that they assist in the breakdown of the cellulose in the wood and plant materials that their hosts consume.

Trichonympha species have a synergistic relationship with the termites and wood roaches, so both of them are lucky to have one another to keep themselves alive!

Jennifer Dawkins

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