My dear friend, Dr. Patrick Trischitta, (@Patrick) had graciously offered to mentor me. The video clip linked below was my very first homework assignment. It is a truly amazing video and story highlighting one of the nature’s wonders being utilized today in architecture.
Watching this video, I couldn’t help but wonder about the behavioral aspects of the termite. Like ants and bees, they are amazing social creatures who build incredibly engineered abodes and perform specific roles across their short lives. I’ve seen studies before showing how creatures are able to inherit behavioral functionality (is that the right term?) over time, and don’t question it at all. That said, I fully expected that this model of advanced engineering would have evolved over time wherein one could see the structures in which they live become more complex and functional over time.
I did a bit of searching and found the opposite, really. Much to my surprise.
Nests dated to 155 million years old were found in abundance showing that termites were more widely distributed at that time than previously thought. Additionally, remnants were found of ancient “fungal gardens” the “size of softballs” within the nests. Today’s termites are known to cultivate similar fungal gardens which help to maintain humidity and temperature in the nests.
This brings to mind a few questions:
- Would it be typical to expect that this kind of engineering capability would be possessed by early forms of these termites?
- If not, is there any way of guessing or forecasting by comparison to any similar situation how long this ability might take to be assimilated into a population?
- Would any expect that the termite would evolve with this ability in place? If so, what kind of bandwidth would such knowledge take up if it were conveyed through genetic code when the termite first evolved?
- If this behavior / knowledge is not expected to be possessed initially (in very early termite forms), would it not have to be acquired / developed very quickly before the termite became geographically distributed around the planet? (And went on to build similar structures in geographically disparate locations?)
The research is dated, but seems to be echoed in many other articles, but there may be more recent research that sheds a different light on the subject. I’m not certain.