Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Termite & Termite Mound Stories

Termites & Termite Mounds & Symbiogenesis


Two of my favorite science writers wrote stories on termites and termite mounds more or less recently. These amazing symbioses across living kingdoms highlight the complex webs that are life. Follow the "More ..." links to read the full stories.

Ed Yong, "The Guts that Scrape the Sky" 

(National Geographic Phenomena, 9/23/14)

Termite-mound
Left: Termite mound in Senegal, by H. Grobe. Right: Macrotermes soldier by Discott.
Take a walk through the African savannah and you might stumble across huge mounds, made from baked earth. They tower up to 9 metres tall, and are decorated with spires, chimneys and buttresses. These structures are homes, nurseries, and farms, all in one. They are also guts. They’re part of one of the most fascinating digestive systems on the planet—a distributed organ that begins inside the bodies of tiny insects and expands into towers that scrape the skies.  More ...

A couple more of Ed's stories on termites and their tiny familiars:

Natalie Angier, "Termites: Guardians of the Soil"

(NYTimes,



A termite mound in Kenya. Such mounds can reach 30 feet high and 80 feet across. 
Credit G. Sosio/De Agostini, via Getty Images
The giant termite mounds that rise up from the sands of the African savanna are so distinctive it’s tempting to give them names, like “Art Deco Skyline” or “Trumpeting Elephant” or “Flagrantly Obvious Fertility Totem."
Whatever the metaphor, the charismatic megaforms dominate their landscape, and not just visually. As scientists are just beginning to appreciate, termites and the often elaborate habitats they construct are crucial to the health and robustness of a broad array of ecosystems: deserts and semideserts; tropical and subtropical rain forests; warm, temperate woodlands; possibly your local park.  More ...

1 comment:

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