Termites are one of the oldest living insect species. Therefore, termites have dispersed into many different species with different survival advantages. Some termite genuses have not undergone many physical changes over the course of evolutionary history. One particular termite genus known as “termitidae” includes the termite species that are considered to be the most advanced. Naturally, most living termites belong to the termitidae genus. The less evolved termites have either died-off or are limited to only small regions of the world, and will soon die-off. Fungal farming is the most significant evolutionary adaptation that many species in the termitidae family possess. However, fungal farming is practiced by both lower and higher termites, but only the most advanced termites possess a symbiotic relationship with fungi. In all other cases, fungal farming is not necessary for a termite species survival.
These fungal farming termites, and their fungal symbionts require one another in order to ensure mutual survival. This type of codependency is called “mutualism”. Therefore, many termitidae species are under evolutionary pressure to start colonies in regions where their fungal symbiont species can already be found. Surviving is more difficult for termitidae termites that start colonies in regions where their fungal symbionts are scarce. Only so much time can pass before a pair of reproductive fungal farming termites parish in response to dwelling in a region that is bereft of their required fungal symbionts, and the same goes for the symbiotic fungi. Researchers have long wondered when fungal farming originated during the long history of termite evolution. Luckily, a group of researchers may now be able to provide an accurate answer to this question.
When comparing the evolutionary histories of fungal symbionts and fungal farming termites, researchers have noted certain parallels. For example, fungal symbionts and their codependent fungal farming termite partners have evolved under similar environmental conditions. The fungal farming termites of Madagascar offer researchers significant insights into the parallels between fungal farming termites and their fungal symbionts. The term “vertical transmission” is used to refer to the simultaneous dispersal of termites and their fungal symbionts within the environment. However, some fungal farming termites establish colonies away from their required symbionts. This means that the termites must locate their fungal symbionts in order to survive. This uneven dispersal between the two codependent organisms is known as “horizontal transmission”. Obviously, fungal symbionts and their termite protectors are more successful in cases of vertical transmission as opposed to horizontal transmission. In fact, researchers now believe that vertical transmission allows termites and their fungal partners to disperse into wider areas of land than their horizontal counterparts. Given this evidence, it seems clear that only those termites that resort to vertical transmission will exist in the future. It is only a matter
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