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- 1 Etymology
- 2 Taxonomy and phylogeny
- 3 Distribution and diversity
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 12 External links
Taxonomy and phylogenyDNA analysis from 16S rRNA sequences has supported a hypothesis, originally suggested by Cleveland and colleagues in 1934, that these insects are most closely related to the wood-eating cockroaches (genus Cryptocercus, the woodroach). This earlier conclusion had been based on the similarity of the symbiotic gut flagellates in the wood-eating cockroaches to those in certain species of termites regarded as living fossils. In the 1960s additional evidence supporting that hypothesis emerged when F. A. McKittrick noted similar morphological characteristics between some termites and Cryptocercus nymphs. These similarities have led some authors to propose that termites be reclassified as a single family, Termitidae, within the order Blattodea, which contains cockroaches. Other researchers advocate the more conservative measure of retaining the termites as Termitoidae, an epifamily within the cockroach order, which preserves the classification of termites at family level and below.
fossils date to the early Cretaceous, but given the diversity of Cretaceous termites and early fossil records showing mutualism between microorganisms and these insects, it is likely that they originated at least in the Jurassic or Triassic. Further evidence of a Jurassic origin is the assumption that the extinct Fruitafossor consumed termites, judging from its morphological similarity to modern termite-eating mammals.
Claims for an earlier time period for the emergence of termites stand on controversial footing. For example, F. M. Weesner indicated that Mastotermitidae termites may go back to the Late Permian, 251 million years ago, and fossil wings that have a close resemblance to the wings of Mastotermes of the Mastotermitidae, the most primitive living termite, have been discovered in the Permian layers in Kansas. It is even possible that the first termites emerged during theCarboniferous. Termites are thought to be the descendants of the genus Cryptocercus. The folded wings of the fossil wood roach Pycnoblattina, arranged in a convex pattern between segments 1a and 2a, resemble those seen in Mastotermes, the only living insect with the same pattern. On the other hand, Krishna et al. consider that all of the Paleozoic and Triassic insects tentatively classified as termites are in fact unrelated to termites and should be excluded from the Isoptera.
Dictyoptera). There is strong evidence suggesting that termites are highly specialised wood-eating cockroaches. The cockroach genusCryptocercus shares the strongest phylogenetical similarity with termites and is considered to be a sister-group to termites. Termites and Cryptocercus share similar morphological and social features: for example, most cockroaches do not exhibit social characteristics, butCryptocercus takes care of its young and exhibits other social behaviour such as trophallaxis andallogrooming. The primitive giant northern termite (Mastotermes darwiniensis) exhibits numerous cockroach-like characteristics that are not shared with other termites, such as laying its eggs in rafts and having anal lobes on the wings. Cryptocercidae and Isoptera are united in the clade Xylophagodea.
Although termites are sometimes called "white ants", they are actually not ants. Ants belong to the family Formicidae within the order Hymenoptera. The similarity of their social structure to that of termites is attributed to convergent evolution. The oldest termite nest discovered is believed to be from the Upper Cretaceous in west Texas, where the oldest known faecal pellets were also discovered.
As of 2013, about 3,106 living and fossil termite species are recognised, classified in 12 families. The infraorder Isoptera is divided into the following clade and family groups, showing the subfamilies in their respective classification
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- Vector control aimed at mosquito eradication. Habitat change: removing stagnant water and other breeding areas; pesticides; natural predators; and trapping.
- Disease prevention, using prophylactic drugs and vaccines; and preventing mosquito bites, with insecticides, nets and repellents.
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