The Termite Family Tree

Termite mycetocyte

Mycetocyte containing bacteria
(blue stained rods)
Image: Maria Costa-Leonardo, Lara Teixeira Laranjo, Vanelize Janei, Ives Haifig

It is widely accepted among biologists that the Termites are most closely related to Cockroaches. The wood roaches, Genus Cryptocercus, live in wood and have parental care of offspring. Cryptocercus and termites possibly diverged from a common ancestor. Cockroaches have a number of features such as laying eggs in egg cases that are not found in termites that lay eggs individually.

As noted in a previous post, cockroaches have specialized cells called mycetocytes, that contain bacterial symbionts. Most termite species have bacterial and other symbionts, but those symbionts are not contained in mycetocytes. An exception is a primitive Australian termite, Mastotermes darwiniensis. Mastotermes darwiniensis mycetocytes are found in the fat body and the ovarioles of the females. The bacteria are necessary for survival and are transferred from the termite mother to the termite egg. The bacterial symbionts in the mycetocytes provide cockroaches with essential vitamins. It is assumed that the mycetocyte bacteria in Mastotermes darwiniensis has a similar function.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in by jjneal, Environment, Taxonomy. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Termite Family Tree

  1. Pingback: Living With Mastotermes | Living With Insects Blog

  2. Pingback: Living With Mastotermes – Entomo Planet

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