Termite Mounds In Brazil Are So Massive That They Can Be Seen From Space

Posted: Nov 25 2018, 4:39pm CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Termite Mounds in Brazil are So Massive That they can be Seen from Space
Credit: Roy Funch

If combined, the mounds cover an area the size of Great Britain.

Researchers have discovered an extensive network of more than 200 million termite mounds in northeastern Brazil, which are as old as Egyptian Pyramids and cover an area about the size of Great Britain. These cone-shaped mounds are about 2.5 meters tall and 9 meters across and can be seen from space. However, they are largely hidden from view while standing on Earth.

The massive network is the result of the activities of single termite species. Researchers suggest that these the structures are merely soil brought to the surface by the termites as they slowly and steadily excavated lot of underground tunnels for their homes beneath the surface. It took them over thousands of years to construct these giant mounds we see today.

“These mounds were formed by a single termite species that excavated a massive network of tunnels to allow them to access dead leaves to eat safely and directly from the forest floor," said Stephen Martin from UK’s University of Salford. "The amount of soil excavated is over 10 cubic kilometers, equivalent to 4,000 great pyramids of Giza, and represents one of the biggest structures built by a single insect species.”

Despite being massive, the nearly 4,000-year-old termite mounds were obscured by thorny-scrub caatinga forests unique to semiarid northeastern Brazil. These structures came into view only recently when some of the lands were cleared. Now, they are easily visible on Google Earth.

“It’s incredible that, in this day and age, you can find an ‘unknown’ biological wonder of this sheer size and age still existing, with the occupants still present.” Martin said.

Another interesting thing is that mounds are regularly spaced and are not inhabited by termite colonies. By collecting samples from the centers of 11 mounds, researchers were able to figure out the roughly age of this massive, ancient structure.

"This is apparently the world's most extensive bioengineering effort by a single insect species," said Roy Funch of Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana in Brazil. "Perhaps most exciting of all – the mounds are extremely old – up to 4,000 years, similar to the ages of the pyramids."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.

 

 

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