Britain-Sized Cluster Of Termite Mounds Found In Brazil

Termite colony the size of Great Britain ‘has been being built since the dawn of the Pyramids’

Termite colony the size of Great Britain ‘has been being built since the dawn of the Pyramids’

"This is apparently the world's most extensive bioengineering effort by a single insect species", Roy Funch of Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana in Brazil said in a statement. An impressive figure comes up when you sum to total amount of excavated earth as it could be used to construct 4,000 pyramids as big as the Great Pyramid of Giza.

"These mounds were formed by a single termite species that excavated a massive network of tunnels to allow them access to dead leaves to eat safely and directly from the forest floor", says Stephen Martin of the University of Salford in the United Kingdom in a statement.

A termite super-colony which spans an area the size of Great Britain has been under construction since the time of the pyramids in ancient Egypt, scientists have found. Researchers studying the vast landscape of 200 million cone-shaped mounds in northeast Brazil sampled soil from 11 locations and found that some began construction around 3,820 years ago.

However, a portion of the caatinga forest has been cleared in the recent years as the land will be used for pasture. But these mounds - measuring about 8 feet (2.5 meters) tall, with a diameter of about 30 feet (9 m) - aren't nests, the researchers said.

A satellite image of the termite mounds. Unlike most termite species Syntermes dirus consume dead leaves that fall on the forest floor.

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Scientists explained that the termite mounds reached impressive sizes, not because of competition among neighbors.

Their behavioral tests found little aggression at the mound level. That makes them about as old as the world's oldest known termite mounds in Africa.

The findings led the team to suggest that the over-dispersed spatial mound pattern isn't generated by aggressive interactions.

The mounds that are visible on Google maps - the results of the "work" insect. The giant network also gives the termites a safe route to a sporadic food supply, a similarity also seen in naked mole rat tunnels, the researchers said.

The researchers said there are still many unanswered questions about the termite colonies, including the exact physical structure of the nests.

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