THE WONDER OF TERMITES
SCIENTISTS HAVE FOUND A TERMITE SUPER-COLONY IN BRAZIL THAT DWARFS THE ANCIENT PYRAMIDS IN SCALE
Atermite super-colony which spans an area the size of Great Britain has been under construction since the time of the pyramids in ancient Egypt, scientists have found.
Researchers studying the vast landscape of
200 million cone-shaped mounds in northeast Brazil sampled soil from 11 locations and found that some began construction around 3,820 years ago.
At around 2.5 metres tall, 9m wide at the base, and spread across 230,000 square kms, it represents a vast earth-moving endeavour — but the mounds are not individual termite nests.
Instead, each one is a “waste point” where termite workers dump soil and other matter excavated in the production of a vast subterranean tunnel network which they have used to traverse the landscape in search of food for millennia.
The authors of a new study, published in the journal Current Biology, said the “biological wonder” was akin to those of the ancient world, but with the civilisation that built it still in residence.
“This is apparently the world’s most extensive bioengineering effort by a single insect species,” said Roy Funch of Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana in Brazil, one of the authors of the report.
“Perhaps most exciting of all — the mounds are extremely old — up to 4,000 years, similar to the ages of the pyramids.”
The mounds are largely hidden from view by caatinga, an assortment of thorny, desert-like vegetation unique to Brazil, and were only revealed to international scientists a few decades ago as the land was cleared for pasture.
The giant termite mounds are ablout 4,000 years old.