Termites Are The Most Evolved Creatures On The Planet
Imagine what the world was like two hundred million years ago. Two hundred million years is an incomprehensibly long span of time. Dinosaurs were just beginning to conquer the world, and all other animals would be considered bizarre looking to modern man. There are not many animals in existence today that lived alongside the earliest dinosaurs. Termites are an exception, as their existence began more than two hundred million years ago. Because of this, many experts consider termites to be the most evolved organisms on the planet today. Surprisingly, even the earliest termite species were eusocial. The complicated sociality of termites must not have taken long to evolve. One hundred million years after the first termites came into existence, Formosan termites evolved. Formosan termites altered the way in which termites behaved socially. Since then, termites became more ferocious and more willing to forage in unfamiliar environments, despite the many predators that surrounded them in these unexplored regions. This newfound boldness and change in foraging behavior is the reason why the termites of today do not hesitate to infest areas that are inhabited by humans. Modern termites have no fear when it comes to living off of humans. People’s homes provide shelter and food for termites at the expense of homeowners. But early termites were far more timid than the ones we know and hate today. So what changed?
Entomologists agree that termites have experienced dramatic evolutionary shifts over the long course of their existence. For example, termites love to feed on timber-framed homes because they subsist on cellulose, which is abundant in most modern homes. But the earliest termites were probably not able to digest cellulose. However, the first termites probably still fed on tiny pieces of rotting wood. The wood contained tiny microorganisms that are still in the guts of modern termites. These microorganisms caused wood to rot. Since the microorganisms caused the degradation of the wood, they also helped to break down cellulose that wound up in termite bellies. Eventually this led termites to feed exclusively on the cellulose in wood and plant matter. If the earliest existing termites had not occasionally munched on rotting wood, then the microbes contained on the rotting wood never would have found permanent residence in the guts of termites, and many people around the world would be much happier.
Do you think that termites are born with the cellulose destroying microbes in their bodies, or do young termites acquire the microbes from their colony members?