Termites are one of more common and costly pests that people encounter in their homes in the United States. While these wood-destroying organisms remain a very prominent modern-day pest, did you know termites date back to when dinosaurs roamed the earth?
Often referred to as the last period of the “Age of Dinosaurs,” the Cretaceous Period is most famously known for the many large dinosaurs that walked the earth such as the Tyrannosaurs rex, Triceratops and Velociraptor. However, along with these terrifying beasts, an ancestor of today’s termite thrived during this period, more than 120 million years ago.
Although, many believe that termites predate the Cretaceous Period as traces of termites have been found in the bones of a Yunnanosaurus in China from the Jurassic Period. In addition to wood, termites will feed on bones of dead animals which explain the researchers’ findings.
One dinosaur is even thought to have feasted on termites regularly, Albertonykus borealis. The bird-like dinosaur featured traits similar to modern-day termite predators like anteaters and short-stubby arms similar to a T-Rex. It is theorized that this odd dinosaur would use its talons to dig into rotted wood where termites could be found.
The giant northern termite, Mastotermes darwiniensis, (found today only in Australia) is the world’s most primitive termite species. This ancient termite species has many similarities to cockroaches, leading many experts to believe that termites and cockroaches evolved from a common ancestor.
A fossilized termite was found with a protozoan (a unicellular organism) in its stomach and is history’s oldest example of mutualism – symbiosis that is beneficial to two different organisms. Modern termites still utilize this symbiotic relationship with protozoa to digest wood so that it can be shared throughout the colony.
Throughout human history, termites have been there right along with us, munching away at our wooden structures. For example, termite droppings have been found in an ancient statue that was uncovered in an Egyptian burial site.
A testament to the pests’ innate survival skills, termites outlasted the reptilian monsters of pre-history. Today, there are over 2,000 different termite species that roam the earth. Termites aren’t going anywhere…except maybe your house.
For more information about termites today, we invite you to browse “The Essential Guide To Termites” which answers all of the most common termite-related questions.