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Why do termites eat other termite’s poo?

You probably do not know this, and many of you probably do not want to know it, but every single termite eats the poo of other termites once in their life. Why, you may ask? The answer lies at the heart of what the termite is and does.

Termites are able to break down the cellulose in wood, which is the material that gives plant cells their strength. This feat is made all the more amazing when you realise the lengths that other animals have to go to to do this. Cows have four stomachs, each which help it process cellulose, while rabbits have to eat their own poo (or a form of pre-poo) during the night, all so they can break down this hardy material.

Termites, on the other hand, have a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship with a variety of microorgansism—bacteria etc.—that enables them to break the cellulose down without having four stomachs or eating their own poo every night.

The reason why they must eat another termite’s poo is to get these microorganisms into their stomach, as they are not born with them. Eating another termite’s poo when they are first born allows them to ingest the microorganisms so they can digest cellulose. Simple.


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