Australia

Australian termites followed similar evolutionary path to humans, study finds

Australian termites followed similar evolutionary path to humans, study finds

DNA sequencing shows insects crossed oceans then migrated from treetops to the ground to adapt to ancient climate change

A new paper shows that the ancient ancestors of termites found in northern Australia crossed vast distances over oceans, and then followed an evolutionary path similar to humans, migrating from tree-tops to the ground.

Mounds sometimes reaching as high as eight metres and housing millions of individual insects are seen in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and far north Queensland, built by cathedral termites. Relative to the animals’ 3mm height and the average human height the termite mounds are the equivalent to four of the world’s tallest structure, the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, stacked on top of each other.

Little was known about the termites’ origins until this research, said Associate Professor Nathan Lo, the co-lead author of the paper from the University of Sydney.

DNA sequencing showed that today’s cathedral termites descend from the first “nasute termites” to arrive in Australia up to 20m years ago from Asia or South America.

“It’s a strange result but we’re very confident about it,” said Lo. “The closest relatives of these mound-building termites in Australia are actually tree-nesting termites that live in Asia and South America.”

He believed that termites arrived in Australia after crossing long distances of ocean on plant matter following tsunamis or large storm events. The researchers found this colonisation had happened three times in the past 20m years.

These first settlers also lived in trees in coastal areas but over time began to build mounds on the ground and feed on litter and grass as they adapted to the arid conditions of northern Australia.

2

Lo said the termites’ relocation was driven by change in climate and environment after Australia shifted from a forest-covered continent 20m years ago to a much drier landscape.

As the forests succumbed to Australia’s dry conditions about seven to 10m years ago, the tree-dwelling termites sought more moisture in the earth, he said. “That’s why they started to build mounds.”

Humans would later follow a similar evolutionary path, said Lo, with our ancestors living in trees as recently as the last 4m years.

“These amazing mounds we see in the north of Australia, we didn’t know if they were 100m years old, 50m years old. Now we know it’s more likely that within the last 10m years that they’ve popped up.

“They weren’t here when Australia separated from Gondwana some 100m years ago – they evolved here relatively recently due to ancient climate change.”

The study, published on Wednesday in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, was led by the University of Sydney in collaboration with Purdue University in the United States, the CSIRO National Research Collections Australia, the University of Western Australia and the University of New South Wales.

Online Source: The Guardian

Australia

More in Australia

Priests Should Be Able To Marry And Have Sex, Suggests Australian Abuse Royal Commission

The Indian TelegraphDecember 15, 2017

No Condom Ads For Sanskari Indians Between 6pm to 10pm

The Indian TelegraphDecember 15, 2017

Sydney Bakery Fined $122,000 After Salmonella Affects 200 Customers

The Indian TelegraphDecember 14, 2017

Perth Christmas Shoppers Interrupted By Islamophobic Santa

The Indian TelegraphDecember 14, 2017

First Gay Couple To Tie The Knot in Melbourne

The Indian TelegraphDecember 14, 2017

A Very Personal Touch! Adult Firm Introduces Sex Toy That Can Be Customised With A 3D Model Of Your Partner’s Face

The Indian TelegraphDecember 13, 2017

A Couple Has Been Caught Having SEX In Broad Daylight On A Popular Australian Beach

The Indian TelegraphDecember 13, 2017

Watch out for this Australia Post Christmas parcel email scam

The Indian TelegraphDecember 13, 2017

Scorching Sydney Braced For Power Outages

The Indian TelegraphDecember 13, 2017

Piggybacked On Lion, Indian Names Score Big In AACTA Awards’17

Twinkle GhoshDecember 7, 2017

Parliament On Cusp Of Passing Historic Gay Marriage Bill

The Indian TelegraphDecember 7, 2017

Accused Drug Mule Carrying 500g Of Cocaine In His Stomach Narrowly Escapes Death As Package Explodes Upon His Arrival In Australia

The Indian TelegraphDecember 6, 2017

Gas Explosion In Harris Park Restaurant Lands Three In Hospital

The Indian TelegraphDecember 6, 2017

Three Booked Over Alleged Plots To Import Ice And Cocaine Worth $253 Million

The Indian TelegraphDecember 6, 2017

Ruthless Flu Spell Sends Over 720,000 To NSW Hospitals

The Indian TelegraphDecember 6, 2017

Telstra Pay-phones Near Harris Park To Allow Unlimited Overseas Calls This Christmas

The Indian TelegraphDecember 6, 2017

Network of Cannabis “Grow-Houses” Uncovered Across Sydney

The Indian TelegraphDecember 5, 2017
Donald Trump expected to meet with Malcolm Turnbull

Donald Trump expected to meet with Malcolm Turnbull

The Indian TelegraphOctober 31, 2017
Dimple Grace Thomas

Indian Woman Jailed For Reckless Driving, Killing Baby In Australia

The Indian TelegraphSeptember 7, 2017
Shark nets to be trialled again on New South Wales north coast beaches

Shark nets to be trialled again on New South Wales north coast beaches

The Indian TelegraphSeptember 1, 2017
Malcolm Turnbull condemns North Korean missile test and urges 'harshest sanctions'

Malcolm Turnbull condemns North Korean missile test and urges ‘harshest sanctions’

The Indian TelegraphAugust 30, 2017