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Termite Creates Sustainable Monoculture Fungus-Farming

Food production of modern human societies is mostly based on large-scale monoculture crops, but it now appears that advanced insect societies have the same practice. Our societies took just ten thousand years of (mainly cultural) evolution to adopt this habit and we are far from convinced that it is sustainable. Farming ants and termites had tens of millions of years to evolve their fungus farming systems and here monocultures are apparently evolutionary stable.

In a study published in the journal Science, researchers from the Laboratory of Genetics of Wageningen University and the Centre for Social Evolution at the University of Copenhagen take significant steps to resolve this puzzle.

The fungus-growing termites of the old-world tropics build impressive mounds consisting of thousands of workers and soldiers. These societies domesticated African Termitomyces mushrooms more than 30 million years ago and became obligatorily dependent on farming their own fungal food in their often gigantic nest mounds. The termite fungus-farming symbiosis had a single African rain-forest origin and now comprises ca 330 species. It is of major ecological importance for decomposition and mineralcycling.
 
 

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