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Description of Termites

´╗┐Termite fossils date from about 130 million years ago, but they probably evolved much earlier from a primitive, wood-eating, roachlike ancestor. There are about 1,900 termite species divided among six families. Five of the families are considered primitive or lower termites because, like their primitive wood-eating roach relatives, they harbor symbiotic protozoa in the hindgut that digest cellulose. Without these protozoans, the termites would starve to death. The higher termite family, Termitidae, is the largest family, containing about 75 percent of all termite species. Higher termites may be able to digest cellulose themselves, or bacteria in the gut may secrete enzymes to aid in digestion.

Caste System and Nests

Termites are notable for their highly organized societies. Because most termites are effectively deaf and blind, they communicate through touch, smell, and taste. Most species are divided into castes of reproductives, workers, and soldiers. Normally, there is only one reproducing pair, the primary reproductives, or queen and king. Secondary reproductives are present, too, in case the queen or king dies. The sterile workers and soldiers are of both sexes.Workers care for the eggs and nymphs, provide food for the nymphs, soldiers, and reproductives, and construct, repair, and maintain the nest. Soldiers have evolved modified heads and jaws for defending the nest. The heads are large and hard with powerful, scissorlike mandibles or long, tubular snouts that squirt sticky chemicals. Some soldiers have both formidable jaws and chemical weapons. Termites are vulnerable to desiccation, changes in temperature, and hungry ants, birds, aardvarks, and other predators. They maintain a moist, temperature-controlled, safe environment by constructing nests. Dry-wood termites never touch the soil but nest in the wood they feed upon, gnawing out tunnels and chambers inside living tree trunks and branches, rotting logs, or furniture and wooden buildings. Subterranean termites must maintain contact with the soil for food sources such as grass and humus or for moisture. Many species are master builders, constructing elaborate nests of carton in trees with covered runways leading to the ground or mounds in the soil complete with ventilation shafts, towering chimneys up to 9 meters (29.5 feet) high, and even fungus gardens to supplement their cellulose diet. Although the architecture varies widely, most nests provide an inner chamber for the egg-laying queen and her king, and areas for brood chambers and food storage.

Thanks for description - Animal life club

Photo Gallery of Termites