Burk Dehority (1930-2016) was a professor at The Ohio State University and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center for over 50 years in the Animal Sciences Department specializing in Rumen Microbiology. Ruminants are hoofed mammals that have a unique digestive system that allows them to better use energy from fibrous plant material than other herbivores.
Dehority worked with scientists around the world to identify and study the microbes that live in herbivores. His early research focused on the isolation and identification of those species of rumen bacteria primarily responsible for digestion and utilization of the structural carbohydrates of forage crops, which are crops grown specifically to be grazed by livestock. In 1961, he published a paper that reported the effect of forage particle size and lignin on cellulose digestion. This work was fundamental to his later discoveries on the interaction among microbial species for digestion of structural carbohydrates.
His studies in Australia on microbial populations in the forestomach of marsupials led to his discovery of a new family of entodiniomorph protozoa (harmless parasites in the rumen and intestines) with descriptions of a new genus and five new species. During the course of his career, Dehority had described and named 21 new species of rumen microorganisms and had two protozoa species named after him. The two protozoa species named in his honor were: Dasytricha dehorityi – a new species found in the eastern gray kangaroos by Australian scientists and Eudiplodinium dehorityi – a new species isolated from the rumens of cattle by Turkish scientists. Dehority studied the rumen/gut protozoa from a wide range of herbivores on five different continents, from moose to Alaskan Dall sheep, to Zebu cattle and Blue and Black wildebeests, to capybara, llamas, and alpacas, to Cypriot domestic horses, to kangaroos and quokkas.
Dehority was a 2008 recipient of the OARDC’s Distinguished Senior Faculty Research Award. He received the Department of Animal Sciences Research Award in 2000 and Ohio State’s Gamma Sigma Delta Award in 1978. in 2020, he was recognized as one of the 150 Years of Ohio State: Research and Creative Expression Innovators.