Friday, 6 November 2015

The 'Collective Mind' of the Termite


Scott Turner, Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry   |   October 30, 2015 11:54am ET

This article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

In Afrikaans, they are calledrysmiere, literally “rice ants,” although their name is more commonly rendered into English as “white ants.” They are not ants, though; they’re not even closely related to the ants. In fact, their nearest insect relatives are cockroaches: they are termites.

For nearly 20 years, I have been studying the termites of southern Africa. I focus on a particular group of them that builds large above-ground mounds, which are a common sight in the savannas of southern Africa. They are grazers, collectively consuming more grass and bark than all the zebra, gazelles, kudus and giraffes that tourists pay thousands of dollars to come to Africa and photograph.

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