[ASC-media] New book on bush skyscrapers

Barbara.McKaige at csiro.au Barbara.McKaige at csiro.au
Tue May 24 22:18:27 EST 2005


CSIRO & Tropical Savannas CRC Media Release 

Wednesday May 25, 2005

Visit www.terc.csiro.au/termitebook.asp for images of these amazing
natural structures.

 

New Book on Savanna Skyscrapers 

 

What's equivalent to a million blind-folded people joining forces to
build a skyscraper covering eight city blocks and towering over a mile
into the sky? 

 

Termites building a giant cathedral mound in northern Australia,
according to a new book by CSIRO and the Tropical Savannas Cooperative
Research Centre (CRC).

 

CSIRO ecologist and one of the authors of the book, Dr Alan Andersen
said northern Australia contained one of the greatest variety of termite
mounds found anywhere in the world. 

            

"These earthen structures range from small cones and domes hidden in the
undergrowth to giant monoliths towering more than six metres tall", he
said.

 

"The cooperation and organisation required for tiny blind insects to
build these structures is truly staggering".

 

Dr Andersen said the new book Termites of Northern Australia was aimed
at the many thousands of people - tourists, students, amateur
naturalists and researchers, who visit the north and are fascinated by
termites.

 

The book covers termite societies and their role in ecosystems, and
outlines the species of termites most likely to be encountered and
recognised. 

 

Dr Andersen said the book also discussed some of the Aboriginal uses of
termites.

 

'The famous Aboriginal musical instrument, the didjeridu, is made from
branches that have been hollowed out by termites", he said.

 

Co-author Dr Peter Jacklyn from the Tropical Savannas CRC said that
despite termite mounds being such a conspicuous part of northern
Australia, the creatures that build them were obscure and hardly
noticed. 

 

He said more than 100 species of termites inhabit northern Australia and
that they played an important role in keeping landscapes healthy.

 

"Termites are excellent recyclers of nutrients and their activities are
very important for revitalising soil.  It's ironic that most people only
think of termites as destroyers of houses and other wooden structures",
he said.

 

Dr Jacklyn said termites also have an identity problem as they are often
referred to as 'white ants'. "However, they are not related to ants at
all - their closest living relatives are cockroaches, whereas ants are a
group of wasps" he said.

 

Termites of Northern Australia by Alan Andersen, Peter Jacklyn, Tracy
Dawes-Gromadzki and Ian Morris will be launched today (May 25) at 10.00
am at CSIRO in Darwin by His Honour, Ted Egan, Administrator of the
Northern Territory. 

 

Further Information:    

Alan Andersen, CSIRO 08 8944 8431

Peter Jacklyn, Tropical Savannas CRC 08 8946 6285 or 0439 820 104

 

Media Assistance:        

Barbara McKaige, CSIRO 08 8944 8411 or 0407 611 846

 

Images of termite mounds and termites for media use can be downloaded
from www.terc.csiro.au/termitebook.asp

 

 

Barbara McKaige

Communication Coordinator

CSIRO Tropical Ecosystems Research Centre

PMB 44 Winnellie NT 0822

ph. 08 8944 8411  fax 08 8944 8444

 

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