New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2009) 33(1): 90- 95

Symbiotic nitrogen fixation in the New Zealand dampwood termite (Stolotermes ruficeps)

Short Communication
Nicola M. Reid *
Gareth Lloyd-Jones  
  1. Scion, Private Bag 3020, Rotorua Mail Centre, Rotorua 3046, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

This study investigates symbiotic microorganisms in the New Zealand dampwood termite Stolotermes ruficeps using culture-independent techniques to describe the diversity of nitrogen-fixing organisms within this termite. Phylogenetic analysis of a portion of the nifH gene (encoding dinitrogenase reductase) revealed 19 phylotypes (>98% sequence identity) with 77–86% similarity to published nucleotide sequences from uncultured microorganisms described from termite guts. The majority of sequences obtained in this study were most closely related to sequences obtained from basal families Kalotermitidae, Termopsidae and the closely related wood-feeding cockroach species Cryptocercus. This adds to the growing amount of evidence suggesting that the composition of nifH sequences is characteristic of a termite family. This study also identifies wood-dwelling termites as a potentially important source of nitrogen input into temperate forests, something previously neglected and warranting further investigation.