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The Termite's Corner: Cornitermes cumulans feat. C. pugnax.

termites cornitermes

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#1 Offline ItalianTermiteMan - Posted August 29 2019 - 12:25 PM

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Here we go with another episode of "The Termite's Corner"!

This time the species featured is the remarkable Cornitermes cumulans, with a litte cameo of the closely related C. pugnax.

 

C. cumulans is a termite species haling from the subfamily Syntermitinae, which contains several "mandibulate nasute" genera that sports fascinating soldiers equipped with both an elongated nasus capable of squirting gluey, toxic substances over remarkable distances (like in the subfamily Nasutitermitinae) and prominent, functioning mandibles (in Nasutitermitinae they are always small and vestigial), often very curved in order to pierce large vertebrate predators: Rhynchotermes is probably the best example. Returning to C. cumulans, this species hail from south America, from north-east Brazil to northern Argentina. It's a litter-feeding species that build conspicuous epigeal mound that can be present in huge numbers, in fact is one of the key sightings of the Brazilian Cerrado ecoregion.

 

This termites sports 3 castes: pimary royals, true workers and soldiers: neotenics are absent here, despite being present in some other Syntermitinae. Workers are very delicate, with thin exoskeleton and large, well-visble guts that give their abdomen a plump appearance. Soldiers are notably larger and more agile, with oversize, armored heads and compact but very sharp mandibles, capable of inflicting a powerful cutting bite. They also employ another weapon: from a tiny tubule on their forehead they can exude a chemical-rich liquid, working in concert with the mandibles and enhancing the effectiveness of their already strong bite. Their one and only purpose is to protect their colony, to the point that they can't even feed themselves and must be cared for by the workers. They are a small minority of the colony, and like the workers they are blind, orienting themselves through chemical and vibrational clues. The queen of a mature colony can achieve a notable physogastry, her abdomen swelling considerably to make space for more and more ovaries: this give them a large reproductive output, and like the king possess well developed compund eyes. Obviously they are accompanied by a very large number of immatures, mainly neanids but also presoldiers and, if in season, nymphs, immature royals already sporting with wing buds.

 

As said before, they build rather large mounds that can reach heights of 2 meters, though they are usually much smaller. In the Brazilian Cerrado these mound literally dot vast swats of landscape, and are often used by the locals as natural ovens or coocking stoves! The mounds are made of 2 different parts: a reddish, very thick and hard outher shell and a dark colored, combed and more brittle inside that also expand below ground level and house the actual termite population. The mound shell, however, provides a very favourable habitat for particular inquilines: other termite colonies! In fact, only one third of active Ccumulans nests in the Cerrado cointain only the species that built (or rarely reoccupied) it, and in some cases up to 5 termite species can be found in the same termitary! It should be noted, however, that this are just inquilines, and the mound-owner will react aggressively to them in case of contact. Ants can also inhabit these nests. Despite its fortress and soldiers Cornitermes is very nutritious (like other termites) and have its predators to face: very damaging ones are the giant anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) and armadillos, with the latter doing worst damage to the nest by boring large holes at the base: these animals can consume large number of termites and, maybe even more importantly, heavily damage the mound, and here is when ants always come in. They are quite ineffective agaisnt a solid Cornitermes mound: it's very difficult to penetrate, and when finding small passages the intruders will be quickly faced with a formidable and tight wall of armored heads and chopping jaws. Even when relatively small breaches occur these are quickly lined with soldiers and repaired by worker shortly after; however the work of a large myrmecophagous mammal can cause such damage that the termite workers would need a lot of time to seal off all the exposed chambers and galleries, and the soldiers will likewise be unable to form a organized perimeter quickly. Ants are extremely swift to capitalize on this and will attack admist the confusion, targeting the scrambling workers (and less often soldiers) left in and around the rubbles, in addition of course of the defenseless, exposed and probably tasty neanids. In addition, such a breach will be deleterious to the fine condition of humidity and temperature inside the termitarium, a fact that will be particularily dangerous for the youngs. In the worst scenario, especially in the case of an armadillo boring through the mound, the very soft and fragile queen could end up killed and this will probably (though not surely) spell the end of the whole colony, leaving their mound vacant for other termites and ants to occupy. An anteater attack is the kind of situation when having some other termite inquiline could actually be useful, namely the Velocitermes and their nasute soldiers, which seems to have a repellent effect on such predator. Of course many animals of various size find refuge in such hardy and abundant structures, be they active or devoid of the builders: from spiders to birds, from mammals to reptiles, and of course a truly numerous host of small, soil-dwelling invertebrates.

 

Apart for the aforementioned "culinary" uses of these mounds, they can also be a tourist attraction, especially during the humid nights during the first rains on the Cerrado: during these nights, the mound that dot the landscape are dottet themselves with a multitude of glowing, bright green spots: these are a myriad of carnivorous firefly larvae of the species Pyrearinus termitilluminans (the name speaks for itself) that light the night in the hope of attracting phototaxic insects to prey upon, including termite swamers when available. Adult fireflies brings these bright lights to the air, making for a truly breathtaking scenery!

 

And now a pair of pic by Doctor Jan Sobotnik, of the Czech University of Life Sciences of Prague:

 

 

 

xSXGq5z.jpg

 

Here we can clearly see the internal structures of a Cornitermes cumulans mound, and how the red, sound cover contrast with the dark insides, the colony's true home. The many white specimens around are confused neanids, immature termites.

 

 

 

XSLR9uZ.jpg

 

These are indivuduals of the aforementioned Cornitermes pugnax, whose morphology is easily comparable to C. cumulans: note the soft workers with plump, dark abdomens and the soldier, sporting a large armored head full of muscles to move the compact but very sharp mandibles and a minute tubule on the forehead to expel his defensive secretions.

 

Do you liked this small fellows? I do! So, to next time with another species!


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#2 Offline Antennal_Scrobe - Posted August 29 2019 - 12:26 PM

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Clicked as soon as I saw it.


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Currently keeping:

 

Tetramorium immigrans, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis

Lasius aphidicola, Brachymyrmex depilis

Formica pallidefulva, Myrmica cf. punctiventris

Formica neogagates, Myrmica sp.

Camponotus pennsylvanicus

Lasius neoniger

Lasius brevicornis

Crematogaster cerasi


#3 Offline Nare - Posted August 29 2019 - 1:52 PM

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Syntermitinae has always been an interesting subfamily to me - thank you again for your post! I've never heard the term neanid before, I assume you're using this for termites freshly hatched from eggs and the instars following them? I read a paper that called them larva, but I think this name is more suitable.


I keep termites - check them out! I've also made a guide...


#4 Offline ponerinecat - Posted August 29 2019 - 2:17 PM

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Is this a daily thing now? Really like how the info is formatted. Really simple.


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#5 Offline ItalianTermiteMan - Posted August 29 2019 - 2:27 PM

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Now and then i also find the term "larva" to indicate freshly hatched termites, but i don't understand its use, for the term "larvae" is proper of holometabolous insects like ants and beetles, while termites are Hemimetabolous like crickets and roaches. However think i understood the "neanid" story: in the italian language a juvenile hemimetabolus insect is called a "neanide" if it don't present wing buds and "ninfa" (nymph) if it have them. Now that i google "neanid" to little avail, it seems indeed that in english there is no such distinction, and being so used to the "neanide/ninfa" concepts i instinctively (and quite forcibly)  anglicized the word "neanide"! However, i find that the term "larvae" shoul still not be correct for Isoptera, and a newborn termite is probaly simply called "nymph".


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#6 Offline ItalianTermiteMan - Posted August 29 2019 - 2:29 PM

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Ponerinecat, i won't precisely say "daily", but now and then i would like to share with you such posts  :)



#7 Online NickAnter - Posted August 29 2019 - 4:47 PM

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Very informative, with fascinating information.  Thank you for this post!


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Colonies:
Nylanderia vividula
Pheidole navigans
Camponotus hyatti
Founding queens:   Lasius cf.americanus, Solenopsis molesta, Temnothorax cf. nevadnsis, , Camponotus vicinus, Pogonomyrmex californicus, and a Leptothorax species.


#8 Offline jtermiteo - Posted August 30 2019 - 6:25 AM

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Oh nice someone is also posting information about individual termite species xD Cornitermes belongs to one my favorite termite sub-families syntermitinae. I don't really know what I shall call immature termites, I either call them larva/larvea (which is weird but many scientific papers say so for some reason) or simply nymph.


Edited by jtermiteo, August 30 2019 - 6:35 AM.

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#9 Offline ItalianTermiteMan - Posted August 30 2019 - 8:04 AM

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Hi jtermiteo, i saw your Hodotermes post too. Hodotermitidae is a beautiful family indeed, and the more we contribute to spread the "word" the better! Personally i will call immatures nymphs, avoiding the larvae appellative, that as i wrote before as far as i know is reserved to Holometabolous insects. Unsurprisingly, i like Syntermitinae too, some massive species in it. Syntermes have the largest soldiers i have relatively accurate measurement, with at least a species growing up to a whopping 25 mm; and those are not a just a few "majors", because as you know Syntermes have monomorphic soldiers. However that doesn't mean that they are the largest, just the ones that i know as such for now. Personally the environement i would like best to start a "termite hunt" are the humid jungles of central Africa: the paradise of many impressive and often unique Macrotermitinae, Apicotermitinae (an amazing subfamily) and Cubitermitinae. No Syntermitinae there though. Too bad they are not exactly the safest and easiest place to visit.


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#10 Offline jtermiteo - Posted August 30 2019 - 11:24 AM

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Yeah and that's great. Heard about syntermes soldiers that is 21 mm never 25 mm but the more you know the better but that is really massive lol. I would love to visit the jungles around central africa in the Cameroon area where there is the higest density of termites in the world. Yeah most of the countries are not to safe to visit the safest in that region is Gabon I think but they are not that known unsure how easy it is to visit it. Ghana, Botswana and Namibia is the safest ones on the African continent. I love the macrotermitinae of the African jungles like macrotermes liljeborgi to example. I would also like to see Cephalotermes and alyscotermes (and much more of course) they are present in the African jungles


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#11 Offline ItalianTermiteMan - Posted August 30 2019 - 4:47 PM

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M. lillljeborgi is indeed the first of its genus that tickle my mind over there, but simply because there are so many only found in Central Afrian forests that sports literally 0 info on the web. It's almost sure that the Democratic Republic of Congo way surpass Cameroon regarding termite diversity, but it's so dangerous that nobody is keen to do research down there! For example Doctor Jan Sobotnik (the same guy that shot this post's pictures) partecipated in a lot of African termite expeditions, and many of them in Cameroon where he even opened a termite museum in a village (!), but he never visited Congo despite its alluringness for the aforementioned reason. His research team is also the one that gave me the 25 mm Syntermes measurement, and since they often worked (and work) with many Syntermes species in Brazil and definetely know what they do i believe them on the word. They also told me that the famous Neocapritermes taracua (and some other Neocapritermes) soldiers can attain a lenght of 16/18 mm, an info that i never found before, and that frankly surprised me. They are by far the largest snappers i know as now. By the way, Cameroon species are on the way on my posts (tell me if there are someones that you truly desire to cover yourself though). In the future i have the project to take residence in a tropical country to be close to my passions (mainly but not only termites, also a whole array of microfauna and activities), for now i am investigationg Brazil and Thailand (no central Africa for me...) with a preference for the latter.



#12 Offline jtermiteo - Posted August 30 2019 - 9:21 PM

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I have talked with Jan Sobotnik about Hodotermes once and some of my fellow termite enthusiasts (On the ant discord, they are also here too) also asked him about reticulitermes, how many workers is the minimum you need to get a succesful colony through getting secondary reproductives more exactly if I remember right. There is no doubt that there is much more termites in Africa especially in the rainforests in Congo there is probably more species elsewhere too. To bad it is quite dangerous there because of numerous reasons political unrests, different kind of militias and etc. Well I don't have any special I want to cover really as of now maybe cephalotermes? but idk. Brazil have quite a lot of species I believe just depends on where you are going in the country since it is pretty large


Edited by jtermiteo, August 30 2019 - 9:37 PM.


#13 Offline ItalianTermiteMan - Posted August 31 2019 - 7:45 AM

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Then Cephalotermes is yours!


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#14 Offline jtermiteo - Posted August 31 2019 - 8:35 AM

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Thanks! :)


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#15 Offline LC3 - Posted September 1 2019 - 9:38 PM

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I wouldn't mind bringing neanid into popular english use, at least for the hobby side. Doesn't help this is a mainly an antkeeping community where the term larvae is used for well, ant larva, and as an insect keeping community usually understand the differences between larva and nymph, so normally people end up being quite confused over this. I believe the reason for this mess in English is due to the sheer number of terms isopterists had come up with for describing castes (neotenics, secondaries, supplementaries, apterous immatures, nymphoid, pseudergate, pseudoworker, 1st/2nd/3rd form immature/neotenic, whatever) during the earlier half of the century and there was an eventual effort to cement certain terms, and I suppose larva stuck.

 

Which ironically neanid is therefor just another competing term, at least in English.


Edited by LC3, September 1 2019 - 9:40 PM.

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Colonies

Spoiler

 

 


#16 Offline ItalianTermiteMan - Posted September 2 2019 - 9:52 AM

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Yeah, i definitely wouldn't mind too, i already had some trouble expressing myself fluidly now that i've started using just "nymph".  



#17 Offline AntsDakota - Posted September 2 2019 - 11:59 AM

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Do all termite genera have termes or something similar in their name?


"God made..... all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. (including ants) And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:25 NIV version

 

 


#18 Offline LC3 - Posted September 2 2019 - 2:57 PM

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Although it's popular convention, there are no rules that stipulate a termite genera must include the suffix -termes, although to date I only know of a few exceptions and synonyms that break this rule. Those being ArchotermopsisZootermopsisHodotermopsisCeylonitermellusTermopsis (synonym of Zootermopsis, I think?) and Maresa (synonym of Reticulitermes).


Colonies

Spoiler

 

 


#19 Offline ItalianTermiteMan - Posted September 2 2019 - 4:13 PM

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Also Termitogeton.



#20 Offline ponerinecat - Posted September 2 2019 - 5:46 PM

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Also Termitogeton.

Sounds like a termite pheidolegeton.







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