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Termite Mound Architecture, from Function to Construction

  • Judith KorbEmail author

Abstract

Termite mounds function as nests for their inhabitants, which are colonies of small potentially vulnerable insects that are also susceptible to environmental fluctuations. Thus, the mound protects against enemies and hostile environmental condition. Mounds vary in shape, between and even within species. Yet, different species might also build similar mounds. Using current knowledge on fungus-growing termites and magnetic termites, I will show evidence that mound architecture is an adaptation to local environmental conditions. There is no single explanation for mound shape. The significance of different factors (e.g. thermoregulation, gas exchange) varies between species and between environments, and different mechanisms exist to achieve homeostatic nest conditions. In the second part of this review, I summarize what is known about the mechanisms involved in building such complex mounds. The construction of mounds that are adapted to local conditions does not imply a purposeful design. Rather, our current understanding suggests that it is the result of self-organisation, in interaction with stigmergy and templates. There remain many open questions in understanding termite mound architecture. To resolve them requires detailed studies and a closer cooperation among disciplines.

Keywords

Termite Mound Central Shaft Building Behaviour Fungus Comb Soil Pellet 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

Joanna Darlington made very helpful comments on the manuscript.

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© Springer Netherlands 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Behavioural BiologyUniversity of OsnabrueckOsnabrueckGermany

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