Termite Evolution Closely Resembles Human Evolution
Termites are among the most hated of all insects, which makes them one of the most hated animals on earth. We humans would like to think that we are special among earth’s creatures, certainly more special than termites. Nobody wants to be compared to a termite, that is obvious. Of course, termites and humans are, luckily, very different organisms. So what could humans possibly have in common with property destroying insects? We humans don’t have much in common with termites physically, but we did evolve in a manner that is similar to how termites evolved. For example, both human and termite ancestors migrated to several different continents, and we both traveled across the ocean in order to inhabit undiscovered land. However, even more than that, both of our ancestors prefered to dwell within trees.
Not much is known about early termite life millions of years ago, but a recent study has shed some light on early termite evolution. According to the co-author of an academic article, Associate Professor Nathan Lo, from the University of Sydney, the modern cathedral termites of Northern Australia evolved from ancestors that arrived in Australia by migrating across the ocean. Not only did these ancient termites cross the ocean, but they lived in trees before evolving into ground dwellers. Humans also evolved from ancestors that lived within trees four million years ago.
The cathedral termites evolved from “nasute” termites, which arrived in Australia from Asia or South America twenty million years ago. DNA sequencing shows that the closest modern ancestors of cathedral termites are tree nesting termites that are now living in South America and Asia. The researchers believe that these termites arrived in Australia by hitching rides on floating plant matter during major ocean storms, or tsunamis.
Early tree-dwelling termites took up residence on tree branches immediately upon arriving in Australia twenty million years ago. However, the termites evolved to feed on the plant life growing close to the arid ground. The early termites were also interested in the soil’s moisture. Eventually, these termites began building mounds where entire colonies could stay cool in heat of the Australian desert.
Do you believe that there may have been many types of early termites that arrived in Australia from other continents, but only very few survived?