Termites have developed wider thermal limits to cope with environmental conditions in savannas



Woon, Joel S ORCID: 0000-0003-2900-266X, Atkinson, David, Adu-Bredu, Stephen, Eggleton, Paul and Parr, Catherine L
(2022) Termites have developed wider thermal limits to cope with environmental conditions in savannas. Journal of Animal Ecology.

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Abstract

<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title><jats:p>The most diverse and abundant family of termites, the Termitidae, evolved in warm, wet African tropical forests. Since then, they have colonised grassy biomes such as savannas. These environments have more extreme temperatures than tropical forests, and greater temporal fluctuations (both annually and diurnally) that are challenging for soft-bodied ectotherms. We propose that that a likely mechanism that facilitated the expansion from forest to savanna was the widening of physiological limits of savanna termite species in order to cope with more extreme environmental conditions. We sampled termites directly from mound structures across an environmental gradient in Ghana, and recorded the thermal tolerance of individual termites, both critical thermal maximum (CT<jats:sub>max</jats:sub>) and critical thermal minimum (CT<jats:sub>min</jats:sub>). We estimated colony thermal tolerance by taking an average of each tested individual, and modelled these data against several environmental factors (canopy cover above the mound, rainfall and temperature). We found that savanna termite species had significantly higher CT<jats:sub>max</jats:sub>values, and significantly lower CT<jats:sub>min</jats:sub>values, than forest species. In addition, areas with high canopy cover were significantly associated with low CT<jats:sub>max</jats:sub>values, and areas with higher average daily rainfall were significantly associated with higher CT<jats:sub>min</jats:sub>values. Our results suggest that the widening of thermal tolerances has occurred in savanna termite species, probably in response to the more extreme temperatures found in those environments.</jats:p>

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Engineering > School of Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 28 Apr 2023 10:18
Last Modified: 28 Apr 2023 10:21
DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13673
Open Access URL: https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/ep...
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URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3170044