Ancient termite discovery reveals secrets of their success May 14th, 2009
Oh, the wretched termite — bane of all homeowners, destructive and hated by everyone but the accounting office for Truly Nolan. And here’s why: The nasty varmints have been perfecting their wood-devouring tactics for millions of years. OSU’s internationally known amber expert, George Poinar, found one of the critters in a 100-million-year-old chunk of hardened tree sap, and has used it to unlock some of their crafty secrets, see below.
Discovery in amber reveals ancient biology of termites
By David Stauth, 541-737-0787
Contact: George Poinar, 541-737-5366 or firstname.lastname@example.org
CORVALLIS, Ore. – The analysis of a termite entombed for 100 million years in an ancient piece of amber has revealed the oldest example of “mutualism” ever discovered between an animal and microorganism, and also shows the unusual biology that helped make this one of the most successful, although frequently despised insect groups in the world.
The findings were made by George Poinar, an Oregon State University researcher and international expert on life forms found in amber. It was published in Parasites and Vectors, a professional journal.
This particular termite was probably flying around while mating in a wet, humid tropical forest in what is now Myanmar during the Early Cretaceous period – the age of the dinosaurs. It may have been attacked by a bird or somehow torn open, and then it dropped into the sticky, oozing tree sap that would later become amber, providing an opportunity for the biology of this ancient insect to be revealed in a way that would otherwise have been impossible.
Read the rest at http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ncs/recent.html.