An introduction to termites: Biology, taxonomy and functional morphology

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Termites are fully social insects, with an extraordinary range of morphological forms. It is now clearly established that they are a very specialised form of cockroach, with far more complex social systems than other cockroaches, and with a far wider range of diets. Termites all live in colonies, with reproductives (kings, queens, and nymphs), soldiers and helpers (true workers and also immature stages that assist within the colony to some extent). Termite morphological and anatomical adaptations are caste-specific, with structures evolving independently in reproductives (to allow dispersal, pair bonding and fecundity), workers (foraging and feeding, tending and feeding of immatures, nest construction) and soldiers (only defence). The modifications seen in termite societies are similar to those found in the somatic parts of multicellular organisms, leading to the idea that a termite colony is best thought of as a single organism (or, more controversially, a superorganism). The structures that termites build, the mounds and nests, might also be defined as part of this organism. Mounds and nests contribute greatly to the well-being of termite colonies by providing shelter, fortifications and climate control. Overall, termites have amongst the most complex social, anatomical and structural adaptations of any animal. © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011.




Eggleton, P. (2011). An introduction to termites: Biology, taxonomy and functional morphology. In Biology of Termites: A Modern Synthesis (pp. 1–26). Springer Netherlands.

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