Although there are over two thousand different modern termite species known to science, most of these species require similar environmental conditions in order to survive. For example, termites quickly die in dry conditions, so moist environments with a steady supply of water are necessary for the survival of termites. Even termites that dwell within desert regions require significant amounts of water in order to survive. Termites are also generally sensitive to dramatically fluctuating temperatures. Termite mounds are notable architectural feats because the mounds are built in a manner that makes internal temperatures stable despite outside climatic conditions. The temperature range that termites require for survival is consistent across most termite species. However, there is one termite species that is of interest to researchers for its possible ability to withstand temperatures that are well below freezing. This particular species is known as Reticulitermes speratus, and it is native to the country of Japan.
The geographic distribution and general habitat of Reticulitermes speratus termites has not yet been determined with detailed studies. Although this topic remains controversial among entomologists, Reticulitermes speratus termites have been found alive beneath snow in certain regions of Japan. In 2013 researchers found Reticulitermes speratus termites in a log that was naturally covered in snow. The region where the log was found is one of the coldest regions of Japan. However, in 2014 researchers reported that the termite population in this region had decreased. This led researchers to believe that the termites had been artificially introduced in the cold and snowy area.
Reticulitermes speratus termites were found in red pine logs buried beneath snow at the Sugadaira Montane Research Center. This research center is located in one of the coldest areas of Japan. The temperature beneath the snow where the termites were discovered often dropped to twenty three degrees fahrenheit. Further studies found that Reticulitermes speratus termites can adapt “physiological strategies” in order to survive cold temperatures. But these termites do not possess any physiological capacities that evolved solely to allow for winter survival. Although the evidence is not conclusive, it is generally understood that Reticulitermes speratus termites can infest man made structures that are located in the coldest regions of Japan.
Do you believe that many arctic-dwelling insects exist that have not yet been discovered?