Un­der­bug

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild At Home - Richard Jones En­to­mol­o­gist

LISA MAR­GONELLI, ONEWORLD, £14.99

Ter­mites are small, but have grand ef­fects. Their biomass in a trop­i­cal for­est can match that of Serengeti wilde­beest, they con­struct cities of ce­ment and they di­gest all cel­lu­lose, from trees to cow­pats. But this book ex­plores more than just their ecol­ogy. The bound­aries of Mar­gonelli’s in­ter­est ex­pand out­wards to meet the pro­gram­mers and roboti­cists look­ing to repli­cate ter­mite build­ing skills that might ter­raform Mars, and in­wards to the ge­neti­cists un­rav­el­ling the in­sects’ gut bio­chem­istry with a view to cre­at­ing fuel meth­ane. An em­i­nently read­able melange of the ter­mite mi­cro­cosm.

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