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Re: Jurassic Termite Nests

At 03:34 PM 3/3/2004, Dann Pigdon wrote:
The most numerous species (ie. most of the world's terrestrial biomass)
feed almost exclusively on grasses. I'm just wondering whether termites
were a lot less common before grasses took off. Or would ferns have been
a suitable food source? (they couldn't have been any less nutritious
than spinifex grass)

My understanding is that the mound-building, grass-eating termites are considered to be much more derived than the wood-eating varieties - as one might expect. Acording to Resh and Carde, The Encyclopedia of Insects (Academic Press), the earliest fossil termites date to the Cretaceous, about 130 MYA. You can see a piece of Upper Cretaceous fossil wood with termite borings and faeces, representing the oldest known termite nest, at http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/gsc/calgary/canpal/pastlives/35_e.html. The site notes that fossil termite nests are rare.

Ronald I. Orenstein Phone: (905) 820-7886
International Wildlife Coalition Fax/Modem: (905) 569-0116
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