How termites conquered the world
An international study released today has determined that different groups of termites followed different strategies to conquer the world.
There are three genera (the plural of genus) of pest termites spread across every continent except Antarctica.
Species of the genus Reticulitermes are found across Europe, Asia and North America. They are an ancient group that spread across the northern hemisphere prior to the opening of the North Atlantic Ocean. The separation of North America from the Eurasian plate was complete by the end of the age of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.
The other two genera, Coptotermes and Heterotermes, spread more recently by vicariance, drifting across seas and oceans on driftwood. Coptotermes probably originated in South East Asia and spread throughout Indonesia, New Guinea and into Australia while Heterotermes is a pantropical genus.
All three have benefited from human interactions in spreading across the globe in more recent times. This method of spreading has favoured both Coptotermes and Heterotermes with their preadaptation to tolerating long oceanic voyages.
- Link to original research article: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/283/1827/20160179
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