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Termites are eusocial insects which 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 sequence from cockroaches, but recent phylogenetic studies indicate that they evolved from close ancestors of cockroaches during the Triassic.
Approximately 3,106 species are currently clarified, using a couple hundred more left to be clarified. 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 males called"kings" and one or more fertile females called"queens". Termites chiefly feed on dead plant material and cellulose, generally in the form of wood, leaf litter, dirt, 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 couple hundred individuals to enormous societies using several million individuals. Termite queens have the longest lifespan of any insect in the world, with some queens reportedly living around 30 to 50 decades.
Colonies are called superorganisms since the termites form part of a self-regulating entity: the colony itself. .
Termites are a delicacy in the diet of some human civilizations and are employed in many traditional medicines. A couple hundred species are economically significant as pests which can cause considerable damage to buildings, crops, or plantation forests. Some species, like the West Indian drywood termite (Cryptotermes brevis), are regarded 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 their fore and hind wings.2"Termite" derives from the Latin and Late Latin term termes ("woodworm, white ant"), modified by the influence of Latin terere ("to rub, wear, erode") by the prior word tarmes.
The external appearance of the giant northern termite Mastotermes darwiniensis is suggestive of the close relationship between termites and cockroaches.
Termites were previously 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 comparable morphological traits between some termites and Cryptocercus nymphs.7 In 2008 DNA analysis from 16S rRNA sequences8 supported 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 exhibit societal attributes, but Cryptocercus takes good care of its own young and displays other societal behaviour like trophallaxis and allogrooming.13 Termites are thought to be the descendants of the genus Cryptocercus.914 Some researchers have suggested a more conservative step of retaining the termites since the Termitoidae, an epifamily within the cockroach order, which preserves the classification of termites at family level and below.15 Termites have long been approved to be closely associated with cockroaches and mantids, and they are categorized in precisely the exact same superorder (Dictyoptera).1617.
The oldest unambiguous termite fossils date to the early Cretaceous, but given the diversity of Cretaceous termites and ancient fossil records showing mutualism between microorganisms and these insects, they likely originated earlier in the Jurassic or Triassic.181920 Further evidence of a Jurassic origin would be that the assumption that the extinct Fruitafossor consumed termites, judging from its morphological resemblance to modern termite-eating mammals.21 The earliest termite nest detected is thought to be by the Upper Cretaceous in West Texas, in which the oldest known faecal pellets were discovered.22 Claims that footprints arose earlier have faced 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 which have a close resemblance to the wings of Mastotermes of their Mastotermitidae, the toughest living termite, have been found in the Permian layers in Kansas.24 it's even possible that the first find out here 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 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 that are not shared with other termites, such as laying its eggs 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 that's because of 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 in comparison to that of other insects; the first fully sequenced termite genome, of Zootermopsis nevadensis, which was printed in the journal Nature Communications, consists of approximately 500Mb,32 while 2 subsequently published genomes, Macrotermes natalensis and Cryptotermes secundus, are considerably larger at around 1.3Gb.3330.