Scientists Explore Phenomenon That Makes Termites Build Tall Mounds

Posted: Dec 10 2015, 1:43pm CST | by , in News | Latest Science News


Termite mound
Photo credit: BBC

Almost everyone has seen the tall mounds built by termites in rural places before, and many more wonder how the termites manage to pull off such wonderful constructions that beat the most architectural of skyscrapers - the BBC reports.

Beyond exploring how termites are able to build the skyscrapers in vast savannahs of Africa and Asia among other places, scientists have often wondered if the skills of the insects at building architectural masterpieces could be copied by man. But there is still another thing: environmentalists have also considered the importance of these large and tall mounds to our planet – and the answers they obtained is sure to jar anyone into praising the innovations of termites for all time.

One of the things researchers discovered is that termites don’t actually live in the tall mounds they construct – they live in a busy city constructed underneath the mounds! They only come up into the mounds to repair it and fortify it to defend the city of termites below.

In their bid to understand why termites construct great architectural mounds and apply the knowledge to building spectacular houses, scientists came up with a discovery: termites cultivate fungus on cone structures. “The fungus helps breakdown dead plant and woody material into more digestible and nutritious food for the termites, and they in turn help maintain the environment for the fungus. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement,” they wrote.

And there is another thing: the termites and the fungi produce large amounts of carbon dioxide that must be given off for oxygen to aerate the roomy mounds. This makes the mound sort of inhale oxygen from outside and exhale carbon dioxide produced by the termites and fungi from beneath the mounds. To this extent, the mound is always hot or heated in the afternoon while it becomes very cool as it loses heat in the night after circular current goes through it.

To this end, it appears one of the primary purposes of mounds apart from being architectural masterpieces by termites is to facilitate the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the arid environments where mounds are usually found. Although some other scientists believe mounds exist to regulate temperatures in their areas, this does not really appear to be the case from latest studies.

“The termites have created this specially structured skin that allows the free exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen, but conserves this temperature and moisture regime that they need inside,” said Rupert Soar, an engineer and professor at Nottingham Trent University. “If we could do that with buildings, we’ve really cracked it – we’ve done something that people haven’t been able to do for generations.”

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/52" rel="author">Charles I. Omedo</a>
Charles is covering the latest discoveries in science and health as well as new developments in technology. He is the Chief Editor or Intel-News.




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