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Termites have been common and diverse since the Cretaceous (traces have been found on dinosaur bones from the middle Jurassic in China) with about 2,800 termite species known. Fossil wings discovered in Kansas have a close resemblance to the wood roach and it is likely that termites are really highly modified, social, wood-eating cockroaches. This is strongly supported by recent DNA evidence. Most of my amber termite specimens are in colony groups – embedded in fairly recent copol amber of only a few million years or younger.

Termites represent the highest level of social organization in the insect world, being classified as "eusocial" by E.O. Wilson. Their enormous colonies sometimes number in the millions and are guided by swarm intelligence, the study of which has helped generate powerful algorithms in artificial intelligence.  Their castes are the most rigid conceivable with nymphs, workers, soldiers, and queens who will lay up to 2,000 eggs a day.

 The strength and armor of the soldier caste protects them against ants, their most dangerous enemies. This includes strong jaws combined with wide heads, which can block narrow termite tunnels against ant entry. The workers do all the work for the colony, including foraging, storing food, brooding, maintaining and defending the nest. They also feed the other members of the colony. All termites eat cellulose in plant fibers, some maintaining a “garden” of specialized fungi nourished by their excrement and becoming a major source of atmospheric methane, one of the prime greenhouse gases.

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