Title

Microhabitat use and thermal ecology of termites in a tropical dry forest of Jalisco, Mexico

Presenter Information

Caleb Loughran
Micah Rayburn
Brad Parker

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC Ballroom C/D

Start Date

15-5-2014

End Date

15-5-2014

Keywords

termite trail, temperature, thermal biology, Chamela, Jalisco

Abstract

Termites are among the most abundant and important organisms in tropical dry forests. These insects are subject to extreme daily temperature fluctuations. At our study site in Chamela, Jalisco, the arboreal genus Nasutitermes compensates for this by constructing large, thermally-stable termitaria. However, temperatures within the extensive trail networks that these termites construct on trees throughout the forest are largely unknown. We investigated patterns of distribution of these trails with regards to exposure to sun and their internal thermal environment. We recorded various trail traits (size, host tree type, sun exposure, etc.) of 74 trails on 74 trees. In addition, we used dataloggers to record internal and external temperatures of 12 termite trails over 24 hour periods. The majority of trails (>40 percent) appeared on trees of moderate bark roughness, while relatively few (<10 percent) were on smooth-barked trees. Interior trail temperatures were strongly insulated from external temperatures. Daytime internal temperatures tended to be cooler and less variable than external temperatures. Differences between the internal and external trail temperatures ranged from 0°C to >5°C, and tended to vary with tree type and exposure to solar radiation. Internal and external trail temperatures tended to equilibrate at night, however, in some cases internal trail temperatures were warmer at night than the external temperature. Our results suggest that termites are choosy in where they place their trails in the forest, and that the striking effect that the trails can have on the internal thermal environment underscores their importance for termite thermoregulation.

Poster Number

33

Faculty Mentor(s)

Beck, Daniel

Additional Mentoring Department

Biological Sciences

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May 15th, 8:30 AM May 15th, 11:00 AM

Microhabitat use and thermal ecology of termites in a tropical dry forest of Jalisco, Mexico

SURC Ballroom C/D

Termites are among the most abundant and important organisms in tropical dry forests. These insects are subject to extreme daily temperature fluctuations. At our study site in Chamela, Jalisco, the arboreal genus Nasutitermes compensates for this by constructing large, thermally-stable termitaria. However, temperatures within the extensive trail networks that these termites construct on trees throughout the forest are largely unknown. We investigated patterns of distribution of these trails with regards to exposure to sun and their internal thermal environment. We recorded various trail traits (size, host tree type, sun exposure, etc.) of 74 trails on 74 trees. In addition, we used dataloggers to record internal and external temperatures of 12 termite trails over 24 hour periods. The majority of trails (>40 percent) appeared on trees of moderate bark roughness, while relatively few (<10 >percent) were on smooth-barked trees. Interior trail temperatures were strongly insulated from external temperatures. Daytime internal temperatures tended to be cooler and less variable than external temperatures. Differences between the internal and external trail temperatures ranged from 0°C to >5°C, and tended to vary with tree type and exposure to solar radiation. Internal and external trail temperatures tended to equilibrate at night, however, in some cases internal trail temperatures were warmer at night than the external temperature. Our results suggest that termites are choosy in where they place their trails in the forest, and that the striking effect that the trails can have on the internal thermal environment underscores their importance for termite thermoregulation.