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How The External Climate Influences Nest-Building Behavior In Termites

In regions of Africa, Australia, Asia and South America, termite mounds can be seen for miles across various types of landscapes. Since termite mounds are created by different termite species that are adapted to particular environments, there exists an array of different mound architectural styles. However, upon researching different types of mounds, researchers discovered that the interaction between external and internal mound climates directly affects mound building behavior in termite workers. Therefore, climate serves as a primary factor in determining a mound’s architectural style.

Researchers from Harvard’s engineering and evolutionary biology departments put their heads together in order to unravel some of the mysteries concerning mound building behavior in termites. The researchers discovered that the climatic conditions existing outside of a mound, such as wind speeds and daytime temperature fluctuations, alter the climatic conditions inside of a mound by changing the flow of pheromone odor signals. These pheromone signals are transmitted from a queen termite to workers in order to facilitate the mound building process. Since these pheromone odor cues are blown around by internal air currents, a mound’s internal climate could be an essential component to the ultimate mound-building behaviors exhibited by termite workers. The climate within a mound can be altered into many different forms, resulting in new building behaviors, and ultimately, different architectural mound styles. The study was ultimately showing how external mound climate can explain different mound structural styles.

This research study was exciting for researchers, as it marked one of the few times when researchers were able to demonstrate how environmental physics and animal behavior work together to produce complex structures that can be found everywhere in nature. This study also sheds more light on the topic of swarm intelligence in insects and it may even serve to inspire architects into designing more environmentally friendly buildings in the future.

Do you believe that nesting and shelter structures created by insects offer insights in the field of green architecture?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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