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Scientists Discover New Species of Termites After 100 Years

Oct 20, 2016 05:02 AM EDT
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An international team of researchers has discovered a new species of termites in the dry forests of Colombia.

The new species, described in a paper published in the journal ZooKeys, is the third species of the termite genus Proneotermes to be discovered. The researchers classified the termites living in the dry forests of Colombia as a new species based on its unique shape and color. Genetic analysis also showed that the termite is indeed a new species.

Named after the fictional town "Macondo" from the novel 'One hundred years of solitude' by Nobel Prize laureate Gabriel García Marquez, Proneotermes macondianus have remained undiscovered over the past one hundred years. Macondo stands for a forgotten microcosm in the history of Colombia with unimaginable events.

 "P. macondianus may have been one of those characters playing in the novel during the destruction of Macondo, remaining unrecognized until today," explained Robin Casalla, a termitologist at Freiburg University, Germany, and Universidad del Norte, Colombia and lead author of the study, in a statement.

The soldiers of P. macondianus are characterized by their elongated, rectangular heads, about 5 - 7 mm long. Their colors range from black at the tip of their heads to ferruginous orange at their back. Additionally, the soldiers of P. macondianus are noticeably smaller with head capsule lighter than two previously known species of Proneotermes, P. latifrons and P. perezi. As oppose to the outward angle of the lateral margin of the genal horns of P. latifrons and P. perezi, the lateral margin of the genal horns of P.macondianus remain in line with the head capsule.

Despite having voracious appetite for dry wood, P. macondianus lives only in the wild, preferably on tropical dry forest and cannot be considered as pest in urban areas. P. macondianus prefer to munch on thin branches of less than 2 cm in diameter. These termites live in small colonies of about 20 individuals.

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