Friday, April 20, 2007

Termites are Social Cockroaches

Termites may look like white ants, but new genetic research confirms they are really a social kind of cockroach.

Given how relatively solitary regular cockroaches are compared with termites and their complex societies, researchers note these findings could shed light on how social behaviors develop in all insects.

Researchers added that the cockroach penchant for coprophagy, or eating feces, could very well have led termites to evolve in the first place.

Scientists had long known that cockroaches and termites were related to each other and to praying mantises. Features they all share include specialized cases that enclose their eggs and perforations in the internal parts of their heads.

What researchers have debated for decades is whether or not termites evolved from cockroaches. Evidence suggesting this possibility included symbiotic microbes that certain termites and wood roaches had in common, as well as physical similarities between their young.

After conducting the most exhaustive genetic analyses yet into the subject, studying 107 different species of termites, cockroaches and mantises from across the globe, entomologist Paul Eggleton at the Natural History Museum in London and his colleagues now conclude termites are indeed a family of cockroaches, findings detailed online April 5 in the journal Biology Letters.

Oy. I REALLY (with blink tag) hate cockroaches because of a nasty apartment that I once had in Las Cruces. Sorry totally off topic. It seems that socialness for lack of a better word is an easily repeatable evolutionary route for insects with similar patterns (queen-worker-soldier-whatnot) repeating from different lines. Interesting that.

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