Duarte, S., Nobre, T., Duarte, M., Borges, P.A.V. & Nunes, L. (2016) Diversity of hindgut symbiotic flagellate protists communities of the European subterranean termite in Portugal. Proceedings of the 47th IRG Annual Meeting. Lisbon, Portugal, IRG/WP 16-10875, 1-10.
The flagellate protist communities are an important part of the termite, as they lead the
lignocellulose digestion. Termites (Reticulitermes grassei) were sampled from forest and urban
environments in mainland Portugal where they are native and in Faial Island, Azores (invasive
populations). Termites’ gut contents was analysed morphologically and the diversity of the
flagellate protist community evaluated based on morphotypes. From the two Azorean invasive
populations we were able to identify 12 different morphotypes whereas some of the populations
in the mainland had as few as 6. Indeed, on the fourteen native populations the number of
flagellate protists morphotypes ranged between 6 and 12. Shannon Wiener diversity index was
used to calculate a variation partitioning between geographical and local variables.
Our results suggest the existence of a core group of flagellate protists, probably performing key
steps in the lignocellulose digestion. However, these communities may be more diversified and
factors linked with the geographic location are likely a key influence of the flagellate protist
communities analysed. In the invasive urban termite populations the high flagellate protist
communities’ diversity, as well as the similarity between the two populations captured, may
indicate a switch of R. grassei foraging and social habits in the invasive termite populations.
Local conditions also influenced the flagellate protist communities, although not so markedly as
geographic location. In this study, native termite colonies from urban environments showed the
less diverse flagellate protist communities.