New scientific research has helped to shed further light on how termites came into being and how they evolved into the wood-eating pests we all dread today. Scientists had already established a while ago that cockroaches, praying mantises, and termites shared similar characteristics and concluded they were related.
Yet, the big unknown was how long ago modern cockroaches and termites shared a common ancestor. To answer this question, scientists examined over a hundred different species of termites, roaches, and praying mantises. They looked specifically at the genetic level and DNA sequences to identify common traits and used these to trace back their originals.
The study included all known termite species from around the world. By using all known species, scientists were able to create a “family tree” for termites and trace back their origins. What scientists discovered was that termites split from their cockroach ancestors about 170 million years ago during the Jurassic period. Originally, prior to this study, scientists believed termites evolved around 130 million years ago.
During the Jurassic period, Pangea started to break apart and form the continents we know today. As the land mass broke up, it took along with it termites to different areas of the world. Over time, these termites continued to evolve and develop into the species and families present today. In fact, one of the oldest species still around is found in Australia, where it evolved in isolation away from other species.
Their wood-eating and ability to digest it most likely evolved from a common trait in cockroaches: eating their own feces. As ancient termites shared their feces with each other, it is believed it eventually resulted in a change in the microbes within their bodies and paved the way for them to be able to eat wood.
While some people might debate that the social aspects of termites are closer to that of bees and ants, this evidence clearly demonstrates termites did, indeed, evolve from cockroaches. To protect your home from both cockroaches and termites, call the pest control experts at MightyMite Termite by phoning 408-377-3761 today!