Living With Mastotermes

Mastotermes darwiniensis

Mastotermes darwiniensis
Photo: CSIRO

Mastotermes is the most primitive of termites, sharing characteristics with the Cryptocercus wood roaches, social cockroaches that share a common ancestor with all termites. Several extinct species of Mastotermes are known from the fossil record. Many extinctions are relatively recent, occurring  several million years ago.  The northern Australian species, Mastotermes darwiniensis, is the only extant species.

Like Cryptocercus, Mastotermes makes nests by chewing galleries in wood. Colonies are usually small but under ideal conditions may produce millions of individuals.  A colony typically inhabits a single piece of wood but will forage on plant material outside the nest and may connect several pieces of wood with galleries. This type of nest places foragers closer to their sources of food.  In some regions of Australia, Mastotermes makes vegetable production unprofitable due to extensive foraging Mastotermes colonies can kill a tree by girdling it at its base. The colony then builds a nest in the center of the dead tree.

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 Biomaterials, by jjneal, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

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