Researchers Begin To Unravel The Mystery Of ‘Magnetic Termites’
Here in the United States termites may seem plentiful, but there does not exist any termites in the US that are capable of building tall nesting mounds that protrude from the ground-soil. However, Australia is a different story, as termite mounds can be found in a variety of different Australian landscapes. All of these different mound-building termites are unique in their own ways, but one of the most interesting of all termite groups has to be the mysterious “magnetic termites”.
These magnetic termites belong to the Amitermes meridionalis species. These termites have long captured the imaginations of many insect experts on account of their peculiar nest building habits. Magnetic termites get their nickname from the particular way in which they build their nests. These termite nesting-mounds are built to lean in a north to south direction, like a compass needle. The geographic location of the termite mounds are also neatly situated along strict south to north columns. Researchers have still not reached a consensus concerning the reasons why magnetic termites build their nesting-mounds in alignment with the earth’s magnetic poles. However, there is no doubt that magnetic termites do build their nests along strong magnetic fields. A while back, researchers planted strong magnets below the ground near other nests that were built by magnetic termites. Years after the magnets were buried researchers returned to the region in order to see how the magnets affected the termites. It turned out that the buried magnets changed the geographical location of all future nests built in the area. So it seems that magnetic termites do have a sense for the earth’s magnetic field.
The nesting-mounds are also unusually slender. The mounds appear to become progressively skinnier until they form a point. This could be due to the manner in which magnetic termites control the internal temperature of their mounds. Every day, the intense Australian sun only shines over the small tip of the mound for a short time. Termites may have built the mounds in order to take advantage of the sun’s heat for only a small amount of time; just the amount of time necessary to keep termites from becoming too hot.
Do you believe that the termites discussed in this article can really sense earth’s magnetic fields?