Giant northern termite Mastotermes darwiniensis soldier, workers and reproductive nymph, from here.

Belongs within: Dictyoptera.
Contains: Hodotermitidae, Kalotermitidae, Rhinotermitidae.

The Isoptera include the termites, social insects that feed on wood and other cellulose-rich plant material. Termites live in colonies with differentiated worker, soldier and/or reproductive castes. The basal families Termopsidae and Kalotermitidae lack a true worker caste with reproductive nymphs fulfilling this role (Inward et al. 2007). The giant northern termite Mastotermes darwiniensis is generally accepted as representing the sister group to all other living termites (Euisoptera), retaining plesiomorphic features such as five rather than four tarsal segments, and the presence of an large anal lobe in the hind wing of alates (Grimaldi & Engel 2005). The early Cretaceous 'cockroach' Sociala perlucida has been suggested by Vršanský (2010) to be the sister group of Euisoptera on the basis of potential synapomorphies such as the lack of crossveins in the wings, but this would require several features of mastotermitids and Euisoptera to be convergent.

Characters (from Grimaldi & Engel 2005): Eusocial, colonies divided into castes with alate reproductives, wingless soldiers and usually workers. Pronotum highly reduced in size. Wings (when present) dehiscent, shed along humeral or basal suture after nuptial flight. Male genitalia highly reduced and asymmetrical. Ootheca highly reduced or eggs laid singly.

<==Isoptera [Termitida]
    |  i. s.: Skatitermes H79
    |         Pterotermes occidentis MS98
    |--Mastoisoptera V10
    |    |--Cratomastotermitidae V10
    |    `--Mastotermitidae V10
    |         |--Blattotermes GE05
    |         |--Miotermes GE05
    |         |--Spargotermes GE05
    |         |--Valditermes brenanae Jarzembowski 1981 GE05, P92
    |         `--Mastotermes Froggatt 1896 H42
    |              |--*M. darwiniensis Froggatt 1896 F97, H42 [incl. Termes errabundus Froggatt 1897 H42]
    |              |--M. anglicus GE05
    |              |--M. electrodominicus GE05
    |              |--M. electromexicus Krishna & Emerson 1983 P92
    |              `--M. sarthensis GE05
    `--+--Sociala Vršanský 2010 [Socialidae] V10
       |    `--*S. perlucida Vršanský 2010 V10
       `--Euisoptera V10
            |  i. s.: Cratokalotermes santanensis Bechly 2007 V10
            |--Melquartitermes myrrheus Engel, Grimaldi & Krishna 2007 V10
            `--+--Termopsidae IVE07
               |    |--Cretatermes [Cretatermitinae] GE05
               |    |    `--C. carpenteri GE05
               |    `--Termopsinae GE05
               |         |--Paleotermopsis GE05
               |         |--Termopsis Heer 1848 F97
               |         |--Archotermopsis wroughtoni A50
               |         `--Zootermopsis A50
               |              |--Z. angusticollis MG06
               |              `--Z. nevadensis M59
               `--+--+--Hodotermitidae IVE07
                  |  `--Hodotermopsis IVE07
                  |       |--H. japonica TW05
                  |       `--H. sjoestedti IVE07
                  `--+--+--Kalotermitidae IVE07
                     |  `--+--Rhinotermitidae IVE07
                     |     `--Archeorhinotermes [Archeorhinotermitinae] GE05
                     |          `--A. rossi GE05
                     `--+--Porotermes Hagen 1858 IVE07, H42 [incl. Planitermes Sjöstedt 1925 H42; Porotermitinae]
                        |    |--P. adamsoni (Froggatt 1896) (see below for synonymy) H42
                        |    |--P. grandis Holmgren 1912 BP01
                        |    `--P. quadricollis A50
                        `--Stolotermes Hagen 1858 IVE07, H42 [Stolotermitinae]
                             |--S. australicus Mjöberg 1920 H42
                             |--S. brunneicornis (Hagen 1858) [=Hodotermes (Stolotermes) brunneicornis] H42
                             |--S. inopinus IVE07
                             |--S. queenslandicus Mjöberg 1920 H42
                             |--S. ruficeps Brauer 1865 H42
                             `--S. victoriensis Hill 1921 H42

*Type species of generic name indicated


[A50] Ahmad, M. 1950. The phylogeny of termite genera based on imago-worker mandibles. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 95 (2): 37–86.

[BP01] Brugerolle, G., & D. J. Patterson. 2001. Ultrastructure of Joenina pulchella Grassi, 1917 (Protista, Parabasalia), a reassessment of evolutionary trends in the parabasalids, and a new order Cristamonadida for devescovinid, calonymphid and lophomonad flagellates. Organisms Diversity and Evolution 1: 147–160.

[F97] Froggatt, W. W. 1897. Australian Termitidae. Part II. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 21 (4): 510–552, pls 35–36.

[GE05] Grimaldi, D., & M. S. Engel. 2005. Evolution of the Insects. Cambridge University Press: New York.

[H42] Hill, G. F. 1942. Termites (Isoptera) from the Australian Region (including Australia, New Guinea and islands south of the Equator between 140°E. longitude and 170°W. longitude). Commonwealth of Australia Council for Scientific and Industrial Research: Melbourne.

[H79] Howse, P. E. 1979. The uniqueness of insect societies: aspects of defense and integration. In: Larwood, G., & B. R. Rosen (eds) Biology and Systematics of Colonial Organisms pp. 345–374. Academic Press: London.

[IVE07] Inward, D. J. G., A. P. Vogler & P. Eggleton. 2007. A comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of termites (Isoptera) illuminates key aspects of their evolutionary biology. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 44: 953–967.

[MG06] Mallatt, J., & G. Giribet. 2006. Further use of nearly complete 28S and 18S rRNA genes to classify Ecdysozoa: 37 more arthropods and a kinorhynch. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 40: 772–794.

[MS98] Margulis, L., & K. V. Schwartz. 1998. Five Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide to the Phyla of Life on Earth 3rd ed. W. H. Freeman and Company: New York.

[M59] Morgan, F. D. 1959. The ecology and external morphology of Stolotermes ruficeps Brauer (Isoptera: Hodotermitidae). Transactions of the Royal Society of New Zealand 86 (1): 155–195.

[P92] Poinar, G. O., Jr. 1992. Life in Amber. Stanford University Press: Stanford.

[TW05] Terry, M. D., & M. F. Whiting. 2005. Mantophasmatodea and phylogeny of the lower neopterous insects. Cladistics 21: 240–257.

[V10] Vršanský, P. 2010. Cockroach as the earliest eusocial animal. Acta Geologica Sinica (English Edition) 84 (4): 793–808.

Last updated: 21 May 2022.

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