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Termites are eusocial insects which are classified 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.
Approximately 3,106 species are currently clarified, using a few hundred more left to be clarified. Although these insects are often called"white ants", they are not ants. .
Like ants and a few bees and wasps from the separate order Hymenoptera, termites split labour among castes consisting of sterile male and female"workers" 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 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 with many million individuals. Termite queens have the longest lifespan of any insect in the world, with some queens allegedly living around 30 to 50 decades.
Colonies are called superorganisms since the termites form a part of a self-regulating entity: the colony itself. .
Termites are a delicacy in the diet of some human civilizations and are used 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 comes from the Greek words iso (equivalent ) and ptera (winged), which refers to the nearly equivalent size of their fore and hind wings.2"Termite" derives from the Latin and Late Latin term termes ("woodworm, white ant"), altered 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 indicative of their close relationship between termites and cockroaches.
Termites were formerly put in the order Isoptera. As early as 1934 suggestions were made they were closely related to wood-eating cockroaches (genus Cryptocercus, the woodroach) based on the similarity of the symbiotic gut flagellates.6 In the 1960s additional evidence supporting that hypothesis emerged when F. A. McKittrick noted comparable morphological characteristics between a number of 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 that 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 characteristics, but Cryptocercus takes good care of its own young and displays other social behavior like trophallaxis and allogrooming.13 Termites are regarded as 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 sequence, which preserves the classification of termites at family level and below.15 Termites have long been accepted to be closely related to cockroaches and mantids, and they are categorized in the same superorder (Dictyoptera).1617.
The earliest unambiguous termite fossils date to the early Cretaceous, but given the diversity of Cretaceous termites and ancient fossil records showing mutualism between microorganisms and such insects, they probably originated before 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 similarity to modern termite-eating mammals.21 The earliest termite nest detected is believed to be by the Upper Cretaceous in West Texas, in which the earliest known faecal pellets were discovered.22 Claims that termites emerged 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 the Mastotermitidae, the toughest living termite, have been discovered in the Permian layers in Kansas.24 it's even possible that the first termites emerged during the Carboniferous.25 The folded wings of this 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., however, consider that each one of the Paleozoic and Triassic insects tentatively classified as termites are in fact unrelated to termites and should be excluded out explanation of the Isoptera.26 The crude giant northern termite (Mastotermes darwiniensis) exhibits numerous cockroach-like characteristics that are not shared with other termites, like 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 due to their sociality that's because of convergent evolution2930 with termites being the important site very first social insects to evolve a caste system more than 100 million years back.31 Termite genomes are generally relatively large compared to that of other insects; the first fully sequenced termite genome, of Zootermopsis nevadensis, which 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.