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  • Strategy

Gut microbes digest cellulose: termites

Guts of termites digest cellulose via microbial symbionts.

"Termites do not digest cellulose directly…instead they collect vegetation, chew it up, and leave the chemical breakdown to other organisms. There are two strategies. The most primitive termites swallow the vegetation and pass it to a fermentation chamber where anaerobic bacteria and protozoa break down the cellulose…More advanced species have a different feeding strategy. The energy source is still cellulose, but it is digested outside the termite's body…Fungi is the only kingdom of organisms able to digest cellulose in air, though they need warmth and humidity to do the job efficiently." (Gould and Gould 2007:132-133)
About the inspiring organism

Learn more at
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Understanding how bacteria, fungi, and protozoa break down cellulose may be useful for developing fuels from renewable resources.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Transportation, alternative energy sources

Gould, James L; Gould, Carol Grant. 2007. Animal architects: building and the evolution of intelligence. New York: Basic Books. 324 p.
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