Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 2 (1), 12

Description of an Early Cretaceous Termite (Isoptera: Kalotermitidae) and Its Associated Intestinal Protozoa, With Comments on Their Co-Evolution

Affiliations

Description of an Early Cretaceous Termite (Isoptera: Kalotermitidae) and Its Associated Intestinal Protozoa, With Comments on Their Co-Evolution

George O Poinar Jr. Parasit Vectors.

Abstract

Background: The remarkable mutualistic associations between termites and protists are in large part responsible for the evolutionary success of these eusocial insects. It is unknown when this symbiosis was first established, but the present study shows that fossil termite protists existed in the Mesozoic.

Results: A new species of termite (Kalotermes burmensis n. sp.) in Early Cretaceous Burmese amber had part of its abdomen damaged, thus exposing trophic stages and cysts of diverse protists. Some protists were still attached to the gut intima while others were in the amber matrix adjacent to the damaged portion. Ten new fossil flagellate species in the Trichomonada, Hypermastigida and Oxymonadea are described in nine new genera assigned to 6 extant families. Systematic placement and names of the fossil flagellates are based on morphological similarities with extant genera associated with lower termites. The following new flagellate taxa are established: Foainites icelus n. gen. n. sp., Spiromastigites acanthodes n. gen. n. sp., Trichonymphites henis n. gen., n. sp., Teranymphites rhabdotis n. gen. n. sp., Oxymonas protus n. sp., Oxymonites gerus n. gen., n. sp., Microrhopalodites polynucleatis n. gen., n. sp., Sauromonites katatonis n. gen., n. sp., Dinenymphites spiris n. gen., n. sp., Pyrsonymphites cordylinis n. gen., n. sp. A new genus of fossil amoeba is also described as Endamoebites proterus n. gen., n. sp. Fourteen additional trophic and encystid protist stages are figured and briefly characterized.

Conclusion: This represents the earliest fossil record of mutualism between microorganisms and animals and the first descriptions of protists from a fossil termite. Discovering the same orders, families and possibly genera of protists that occur today in Early Cretaceous kalotermitids shows considerable behaviour and morphological stability of both host and protists. The possible significance of protist cysts associated with the fossil termite is discussed in regards the possibility that coprophagy, as well as proctodeal trophallaxis, was a method by which some termite protozoa were transferred intrastadially and intergenerationally at this time.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Dorsal view of Kalotermes burmensis n. sp. Bar = 690 μm.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Left antenna of Kalotermes burmensis n. sp. First antennomere partially hidden by head. Bar = 106 μm.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Claw with arolium (arrow) of Kalotermes burmensis n. sp. Bar = 63 μm.
Figure 4
Figure 4
Lateral view of head of Kalotermes burmensis n. sp. showing ocellus (arrowhead) and compound eye (arrow). Bar = 50 μm.
Figure 5
Figure 5
Minute black nodules covering wing membrane of Kalotermes burmensis n. sp.
Figure 6
Figure 6
Hind wing of Kalotermes burmensis n. sp. showing radius (R1), radial sector (Rs), medial (M), and cubital (Cu) veins. Bar = 328 μm.
Figure 7
Figure 7
Photo and drawing of Foainites icelus n. gen. n. sp. N = nucleus, A = axostyle, P = parabasal. Bar = 12 μm.
Figure 8
Figure 8
Photo and drawing of Spiromastigites acanthodes n. gen., n. sp. N = nucleus. Bar = 5 μm.
Figure 9
Figure 9
Photo and drawing of Trichonymphites henis n. gen., n. sp. H = holdfast, F = rostral flagellum, n = putative nucleus. Bar = 11 μm.
Figure 10
Figure 10
Photo and drawing of Teranymphites rhabdotis n. gen. n. sp. Left portion of body covered by a second specimen. N = nucleus, A = putative axostyle, P = parabasal. Bar = 24 μm.
Figure 11
Figure 11
Photo and drawing of Oxymonas protus n. sp. R = rostellum, N = nucleus, A = putative axostyle, F = fibrous structure. Bar = 15 μm.
Figure 12
Figure 12
Photo and drawing of Oxymonites gerus n. gen., n. sp. R = rostellum, A = axostyle, N = nucleus. Bar = 26 μm.
Figure 13
Figure 13
Photo and drawing of Microrhopalodites polynucleatis n. gen., n. sp. R = rostellum, A = axostyle, N = nucleus, Bar = 41 μm.
Figure 14
Figure 14
Photo and drawing of Sauromonites katatonis n. gen., n. sp. F = flagellum, A = axostyle, N = nucleus. Bar = 22 μm.
Figure 15
Figure 15
Photo and drawing of Dinenymphites spiris n. gen., n. sp. N = nucleus, A = axostyle, Bar = 13 μm.
Figure 16
Figure 16
Photo and drawing of Pyrsonymphites cordylinis n. gen., n. sp. F = flagellum, T = tubular area, N = nucleus. Bar = 21 μm.
Figure 17
Figure 17
Photo and drawing of Endamoebites proterus n. gen., n. sp. P = protuberance, N = nucleus dividing. Bar = 14 μm.
Figure 18
Figure 18
Possible amoebic cyst. Bar = 24 μm.
Figure 19
Figure 19
Large spherical cyst with two nuclei. Bar = 28 μm.
Figure 20
Figure 20
Small spherical cyst with a pair of nucleated cells. Bar = 14 μm.
Figure 21
Figure 21
Spherical cyst with two or more nuclei. Bar = 14 μm.
Figure 22
Figure 22
Pyriform cyst. Bar = 12 μm.
Figure 23
Figure 23
Spherical cyst. Bar = 14 μm.
Figure 24
Figure 24
Possible ciliate. Bar = 14 μm.
Figure 25
Figure 25
Possible ciliate. Bar = 12 μm.
Figure 26
Figure 26
Possible ciliate. Bar = 14 μm.
Figure 27
Figure 27
Possible ciliate. Bar = 10 μm.
Figure 28
Figure 28
A, B. Photo and drawing of a dividing cell with a double rostral area, each with an axostyle. Specimen partially embedded in gut of host. Bar = 12 μm.
Figure 29
Figure 29
Example of double cell with one mastigont being extruded. Bar = 6 μm.
Figure 30
Figure 30
Unidentified flagellate, probably of the family Trichonymphidae. Bar = 28 μm.
Figure 31
Figure 31
Cell undergoing binary fission. Bar = 12 μm.
Figure 32
Figure 32
A pair of elliptical cells. Bar = 13 μm.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 6 articles

See all "Cited by" articles

References

    1. Ohkuma M. Symbiosis of flagellates and prokaryotes in the gut of lower termites. Trends Microbiol. 2008;16:345–352. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2008.04.004. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Bignell DE. Introduction to symbiosis. In: Abe T, Bignell DE, Higashi M, editor. Termites: Evolution, Sociality, Symbioses, Ecology. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers; 2000. pp. 189–208.
    1. Inoue T, Kitade O, Yoshimura T, Yamaoka I. Symbiotic associations with protists. In: Abe T, Bignell D E, Higashi M, editor. Termites: Evolution, Sociality, Symbioses, Ecology. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers; 2000. pp. 275–288.
    1. Brugerolle G, Lee JJ. Order Oxymonadida. In: Lee JJ, Leedale GF, Bradbury P, editor. An Illustrated Guide to the Protozoa. 2. Vol. 2. Lawrence, Kansas: Society of Protozoologists, Allen Press; 2000. pp. 1186–1195.
    1. Brugerolle G, Lee JJ. Phylum Parabasalia. In: Lee JJ, Leedale GF, Bradbury, P, editor. An Illustrated Guide to the Protozoa. 2. Vol. 2. Lawrence, Kansas: Society of Protozoologists, Allen Press; 2000. pp. 1196–1250.

LinkOut - more resources

Feedback