Termite mega-city that ‘dwarfs any city humans have ever built’ leaves scientists baffled
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Termites are some of the most extraordinary animals when it comes to building structures.
Few animals even come close to their ability to construct huge spires out of bits of mud and saliva. Not bad conferring they're only around 1.3cm long.
However, one colony of termites living in northern Brazil has constructed a termite metropolis which rivals anything humans have ever built.
But surely this is in relative terms? It must be because they are such tiny creatures and relative to their body size the amount of construction they would have to do would be much more.
Nope. This is in absolute terms. Gram for gram.
In fact, the total amount of earth which was excavated from the site was found to be the equivalent of 4,000 Great Pyramids of Giza. That's a lot of pyramids.
Scientists have been left baffled by the structure which they claim is that largest of its kind so far discovered. Some of the mounds are also thousands of years old.
Not only that, but it shows just how much of a profound impact even a small animal can have on the natural environment around it.
Stephen J Martin, an entomologist at the University of Salford who specialises in social insects, said: “Imagine it being a city. We’ve never built a city that big."
Biologist Roy Funch added: “I don’t think anyone has ever seen such a modification of the landscape at such a huge scale by such tiny little creatures."
What's even more astonishing is that we haven't even started to scratch the surface of the empire of termites. We know that they built the mounds, but not where the actual colonies reside so much.
The mounds themselves are not housing the actual termites themselves, nor are they used for ventilation as has been thought before.
It's also a tricky business trying to investigate the ground as if you start to dig then the termites are disturbed. They send soldier termites to deter the threat, and the soldiers don't mess around. They can draw blood.
The oldest of the mounds in the metropolis is estimated to be around 3,800 years old.