Termites Are The Oldest And Most Fierce Of All Eusocial Insects
There are many modern similarities between termites and ants. People often have a difficult time telling the two insects apart. This is no small wonder to entomologists since ants and termites likely interacted during the course of evolution. Termites are one hundred million years old, whereas ants are ninety nine million years old. It turns out that a one million year difference in evolutionary development makes a big difference when it comes to predator-prey relations. By the time ants arrived on the scene, termites were ready to battle the ill-protected ants in order to secure valuable resources. The earliest forms of termite society had already developed a caste of warrior termites, leaving ants no choice but to surrender to their termite overlords.
According to Philip Barden, a postdoctoral scientist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, termite soldiers have existed for at least twenty million years. Fossil evidence shows that early termite colonies from the cretaceous period included workers, soldiers, and reproductives. The workers collected food and created tunnels, the soldiers protected the nest from outsiders, and the reproductive had wings in order to find mates by swarming. This may not sound to exciting since modern termite colonies are comprised of similar castes. However, the workers and the soldiers from ancient colonies looked quite peculiar in comparison to modern termites.
Soldiers belonging to early termite castes sported large armored heads that could withstand the most brutal of enemy blows. The worker termites, on the other hand, looked markedly different from their soldier counterparts, as they had a gentle and expressive look to them. These early termite workers were virtually defenseless against predatory attacks. They were by no means fighters, which is likely why the armored, and inherently warlike soldier termites were far more battle-ready than today’s soldier termites.
It goes without saying that early ants were entirely unable to defend themselves against the well evolved predatory instincts of their termite contemporaries. However, since then, ants have evolved into formidable enemies that often defeat enemy termites during battle.
Do you believe that termites will evolve in order to adapt to changing environmental conditions?