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Termites are eusocial insects which are categorized in the taxonomic rank of infraorder Isoptera, or as epifamily Termitoidae within the cockroach order Blattodea. Termites were once classified in another sequence from cockroaches, but recent phylogenetic studies indicate that they evolved from close ancestors of cockroaches during the Jurassic or Triassic.

Approximately 3,106 species are currently described, using a couple hundred more left to be described. Although these insects are often called"white ants", they are not ants. .

Like ants and some bees and wasps from the separate order Hymenoptera, termites split labour among castes consisting of sterile male and female"workers" and"soldiers". All colonies have fertile men called"kings" and one or more fertile females called"queens". Termites chiefly feed on dead plant material and cellulose, generally in the form of wood, leaf litter, dirt, or animal dung.

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Termites are among the most prosperous groups of insects on Earth, colonising many landmasses except Antarctica. Their colonies range in size from a few hundred individuals to enormous societies with many million individuals. Termite queens have the longest lifespan of any insect in the world, with some queens reportedly living up to 30 to 50 decades.

Colonies are described as superorganisms because the termites form a part of a self-regulating entity: the colony itself. .

Termites are a delicacy in the diet of some human civilizations and are used in many traditional medicines. Several hundred species are economically significant as insects that can cause considerable damage to buildings, plants, or plantation forests. Some species, like the West Indian drywood termite (Cryptotermes brevis), are regarded as invasive species. .

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The infraorder name Isoptera is derived from the Greek words iso (equal) and ptera (winged), which refers to the nearly equal size of the fore and hind wings.2"Termite" derives from the Latin and Late Latin word termes ("woodworm, white ant"), altered by the influence of Latin terere ("to rub, wear, erode") from the earlier word tarmes.

The external appearance of this giant northern termite Mastotermes darwiniensis is suggestive of the intimate relationship between termites and cockroaches.

Termites were previously put in the order Isoptera. As early as 1934 suggestions were made they were closely linked to wood-eating cockroaches (genus Cryptocercus, the woodroach) dependent on the similarity of the symbiotic gut flagellates.6 In the 1960s additional evidence supporting that hypothesis emerged when F. A. McKittrick noted similar morphological characteristics between a number of termites and Cryptocercus nymphs.7 In 2008 DNA analysis from 16S rRNA sequences8 supported the position of termites being nested within the evolutionary tree containing the order Blattodea, which included that the cockroaches.910 The cockroach genus Cryptocercus stocks the strongest phylogenetical similarity with termites and is considered to be a sister-group to termites.1112 Termites and Cryptocercus share similar morphological and societal features: for instance, most cockroaches do not exhibit societal attributes, but Cryptocercus takes care of its young and exhibits other societal behavior like trophallaxis and allogrooming.13 Termites are regarded as the descendants of the genus Cryptocercus.914 Some investigators have suggested a more conservative measure of retaining the termites as the Termitoidae, an epifamily within the cockroach order, which averts the classification of termites in family level and below.15 Termites have long been accepted to be closely associated with cockroaches and mantids, and they're categorized in precisely the same superorder (Dictyoptera).1617.

The earliest unambiguous termite fossils date to the early Cretaceous, but given the diversity of Cretaceous termites and early fossil records showing mutualism between microorganisms and such insects, they likely originated before in the Jurassic or Triassic.181920 Further evidence of a Jurassic origin is the assumption that the extinct Fruitafossor consumed termites, judging from the morphological similarity to modern termite-eating mammals.21 The oldest termite nest detected is believed to be from the Upper Cretaceous in West Texas, where the earliest known faecal pellets have been also discovered.22 Claims that termites emerged earlier have confronted controversy.

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Weesner indicated that the Mastotermitidae termites may go back to the Late Permian, 251 million years ago,23 and fossil wings that have a close resemblance to the wings of Mastotermes of the Mastotermitidae, the most primitive living , have check here been discovered in the Permian layers in Kansas.24 it's even possible that the first termites emerged during the Carboniferous.25 The folded wings of this fossil wood roach Pycnoblattina, arranged in a convex pattern between segments 1a and 2a, resemble those seen in Mastotermes, the only living insect with exactly the identical pattern.24 Krishna et al., however, consider that all of the Paleozoic and Triassic insects tentatively categorized as termites are in fact unrelated to termites and needs to be excluded from the Isoptera.26 The crude giant northern termite (Mastotermes darwiniensis) exhibits numerous cockroach-like attributes which are not shared with other termites, like laying its eggs in rafts and having anal lobes on the wings.27 Cryptocercidae and Isoptera are united in the clade Xylophagidae.28 Termites are sometimes known as"white ants" but the only resemblance to the ants is due to their sociality which is because of convergent evolution2930 with termites being the very first social insects to evolve a caste system more than 100 million years back.31 Termite genomes are generally comparatively large in comparison to that of other insects; the first completely sequenced termite genome, of Zootermopsis nevadensis, that was published in the journal Nature Communications, consists of approximately 500Mb,32 while two subsequently published genomes, Macrotermes natalensis and Cryptotermes secundus, are considerably larger at around 1.3Gb.3330.

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