Research completed by University of Western Australia honors student, Ghislaine Small, of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Planet Energy Biology has identified the gut of a Western Australia termite might be used in the development of biofuels.
Small scoured Shenton Park and Perth Hills and analyzed the bacteria she found in their digestive systems. Small intentionally studied two termite species whose gut bacteria had not previously been examined. She said in one termite species found only in WA, Tumulitermes westraliensis, more than half the gut was made up of unknown species.
Amazingly, a termite gut might contain several hundred species of bacteria, and Small and other researchers are interested in testing enzymes in the bacteria with an eye on using them in biofuel production.
Kate Howell, Small’s advisor on the project, said this may one day address a primary concern in the biofuel industry – how to efficiently break down plant material.