Friday, 27 April 2012

X for Xylophagous

Fun Facts

1) Xylophagous comes from Greek (xylon = wood; phagein = to eat) and is used to describe organisms that feed in or upon woody tissue.

2) Few organisms can be described as being xylophagous and even fewer insects. That being said, the most well known of course is the termite. Now becareful not to confues xylophagous with wood-boring or wood-destroying insects (WDI). There are a ton of insects that do a lot of structural dammage to trees and cut wood, but they do not necissarly feed on it for survival. The damage caused by WDI usually comes from boring into the wood to deposit eggs  (e.g. bark beetles) or by tunneling to create passages and nests (e.g. carpenter ants and carpenter bees).

3) Wood (cellulose) is a very difficult material to process and very few animals have evolved methods to properly digest it. Then why go through all the effort? Because wood is a very high energy source (just think how much energy is released when you burn wood). 

4) So how do termites eat wood? I'm so glad you asked! The primary way termites digest cellulose is with the help of a myriad of flagellated protists living in the termite's digestive tract. And yes, I agree with you, that is a fascinating example of symbiosis or mutualism! If you remove these flagellates from a termite, it will continue to feed on wood but will eventually starve to death (Borror, Triplehorn Johnson, 1989; An Introduction to the Study of Insects). Some termites however, use bacteria rather than flagellates to breakdown cellulose. Either way, termites need a little help processing their food.

Have you ever tried to eat wood? :P
(can you tell I'm having a hard time coming up with prompts?)


  1. Wow! Great info on a termite's process. Elise, you've done a great job with your A-to-Z Challenge posts. Who would have thought of writing about insects. Great, great idea!

  2. Toothpicks possibly, but that's about it. Great X word.

  3. Is eating a termite considered eating wood? Cause if it is then, yes, I have eaten wood.

    This was fascinating to read. It helps that I like these things too.

  4. I have to admit I'm terrified of termites, but only because I live in a place where they could completely destroy my house.

  5. Jack: Thanks, but I don't think I'll use the same theme for next year...

    Mina: You crack me up. :D

    Frost: You've eaten a termite!? (O_O) And I'd have to say yes...and pics or it didn't happen!

    S.P. Bowers: Termites can do some serious damage. If you live in a termite risk zone, just keep an eye out for activity every now and then, just to be sure.

  6. Nope . . . and I have never eaten termites, either.

    P.S.: I love the Picture of the Week on your sidebar!

    The Eagle's Aerial Perspective

    1. Thanks Golden Eagle! Glad you stopped by. Feel free to snag the pic if you like it. (:

  7. My X post is prettier than yours -- unless you think termites pretty. But they aren't prettier than XENA! It's a guy thing! LOL. Roland

    1. I do have a thing for insects...but Xena wins hands down! (;

  8. I'm sooo glad that the X-post is over!! I love the sound of Xylophagus - it rolls off the tongue quite pleasantly...
    My home has wooden floors, so I'd better be on the look out for these xylophagus creatures. (Now I'll be walking around saying 'xylophagus' the entire day... xylophagus...)

    1. LOL! I never thought about it, but you're right, it is a sexy sounding word!! :D


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