Spirotrichonymphea (Parabasalia) symbionts of the termite Paraneotermes simplicicornis

Stephen J. Taerum, Daniel E. Jasso-Selles, Jonathon T. Hileman, Francesca De Martini, Nobuaki Mizumoto, Gillian H. Gile

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The desert dampwood termite Paraneotermes simplicicornis harbors several species of obligately symbiotic protists that support its nutrition by fermenting lignocellulose. Among them are three morphotypes with the dexiotropic spiraling flagellar bands characteristic of Spirotrichonymphea (Parabasalia). The largest morphotype, characterized by an elongated cell apex with axial columella and internally positioned spiraling flagellar bands, was previously described as Spirotrichonympha polygyra. A smaller morphotype, with similarly internalized flagellar bands but a more rounded posterior without a protruding axostyle, was previously reported but not named. The smallest morphotype has surface flagellar bands and can attach to other protist cells by its apex. In this study, we combine light microscopy of live specimens and 18S rRNA gene sequencing of individually isolated cells to better understand the diversity of symbionts in P. simplicicornis. We found that S. polygyra branches distantly from true Spirotrichonympha, which are associated with Reticulitermes termites. Thus, we propose the new genus Cuppa to accommodate C. polygyra n. comb. (type species) and the similar but smaller morphotype Cuppa taenia n. sp. The undescribed smallest morphotype can be excluded from all previously described Spirotrichonymphea genera by molecular and behavioral evidence, so we propose Fraterculus simplicicornis n. gen., n. sp., to accommodate this organism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number125742
JournalEuropean Journal of Protistology
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Cuppa
  • Evolution
  • Fraterculus
  • Symbiosis
  • Taxonomy
  • Termite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology


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