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Termites are eusocial insects that are categorized in the taxonomic rank of infraorder Isoptera, or as epifamily Termitoidae within the cockroach order Blattodea. Termites were once classified in a separate order from cockroaches, but recent phylogenetic studies indicate that they evolved from near ancestors of cockroaches during the Jurassic or Triassic.
About 3,106 species are currently described, with a couple hundred more left to be described. Although these insects are often called"white ants", they are not ants. .
Like ants and some bees and wasps in the separate order Hymenoptera, termites split labour among castes consisting of sterile male and female"employees" and"soldiers". All colonies have fertile men called"kings" and one or more fertile females called"queens". Termites mostly feed on dead plant material and cellulose, generally in the kind of wood, leaf litter, soil, or animal dung.
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Termites are among the most prosperous groups of insects on Earth, colonising most landmasses except Antarctica. Their colonies range in size from a few hundred individuals to enormous societies with many million individuals. Termite queens have the longest lifespan of any insect in the world, with a few queens reportedly living around 30 to 50 years.
Colonies are described as superorganisms because the termites form part of a self-regulating entity: the colony itself. .
Termites are a delicacy in the diet of some human cultures and are employed in many traditional medicines. A couple hundred species are economically significant as pests that can cause considerable damage to buildings, crops, or plantation forests. Some species, like the West Indian drywood termite (Cryptotermes brevis), are considered as invasive species. .
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The infraorder name Isoptera is derived from the Greek words iso (equal) and ptera (winged), which describes the nearly equivalent size of the fore and hind wings.2"Termite" derives from the Latin and Late Latin word termes ("woodworm, white ant"), modified by the influence of Latin terere ("to rub, wear, erode") by the earlier word tarmes.
The external appearance of the giant northern termite Mastotermes darwiniensis is suggestive of the close relationship between termites and cockroaches.
Termites were formerly placed in the order Isoptera. As early as 1934 suggestions were made that they were closely linked to wood-eating cockroaches (genus Cryptocercus, the woodroach) dependent on the similarity of their symbiotic gut flagellates.6 In the 1960s additional evidence supporting that theory emerged when F. A. McKittrick noted similar morphological characteristics between some termites and Cryptocercus nymphs.7 In 2008 DNA analysis from 16S rRNA sequences8 affirmed the position of termites being nested within the evolutionary tree containing the order Blattodea, which included the cockroaches.910 The cockroach genus Cryptocercus stocks the strongest phylogenetical similarity with termites and is considered to be a sister-group to termites.1112 Termites and Cryptocercus share similar morphological and social features: for instance, most cockroaches do not display societal attributes, but Cryptocercus takes care of its young and displays other social behaviour like trophallaxis and allogrooming.13 Termites are regarded as the descendants of the genus Cryptocercus.914 Some investigators have suggested a more conservative recommended you read step of retaining the termites as the Termitoidae, an epifamily within the cockroach sequence, which averts the classification of termites in family level and below.15 Termites have long been accepted to be closely related to cockroaches and mantids, and they are categorized in the exact same superorder (Dictyoptera).1617.
The oldest unambiguous termite fossils date to the early Cretaceous, but given the diversity of Cretaceous termites and early fossil records showing mutualism between microorganisms and such insects, they probably originated earlier in the Jurassic or Triassic.181920 Further evidence of a Jurassic origin is the assumption that the extinct Fruitafossor consumed termites, judging from its morphological resemblance to modern termite-eating mammals.21 The oldest termite nest discovered is believed to be by the Upper Cretaceous in West Texas, in which the earliest known faecal pellets have been discovered.22 Claims that footprints arose earlier have confronted controversy.
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Weesner indicated that the Mastotermitidae termites may go back to the late Permian, 251 million years ago,23 and fossil wings that have a close resemblance to the wings of Mastotermes of their Mastotermitidae, the most primitive living , have been found in the Permian layers in Kansas.24 It is even possible that the first termites emerged during the Carboniferous.25 The folded wings of the fossil wood roach Pycnoblattina, arranged in a convex pattern between segments 1a and 2a, resemble those seen her latest blog in Mastotermes, the only living insect with exactly the identical pattern.24 Krishna et al., though, consider that all of the Paleozoic and Triassic insects tentatively categorized as termites are in fact unrelated to termites and needs to be excluded from the Isoptera.26 The primitive giant northern termite (Mastotermes darwiniensis) exhibits numerous cockroach-like attributes which are not shared with other termites, such as laying its eggs their website in rafts and having anal lobes on the wings.27 Cryptocercidae and Isoptera are united in the clade Xylophagidae.28 Termites are sometimes called"white ants" but the only resemblance to the ants is because of their sociality which is due to convergent evolution2930 with termites being the very first social insects to evolve a caste system more than 100 million years ago.31 Termite genomes are generally comparatively large compared to that of other insects; the first completely sequenced termite genome, of Zootermopsis nevadensis, that was printed in the journal Nature Communications, consists of roughly 500Mb,32 while 2 subsequently released genomes, Macrotermes natalensis and Cryptotermes secundus, are considerably larger at around 1.3Gb.3330.