Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tons of Termite Mounds

It looks like a strange type of graveyard, right?
One of our first stops upon arriving in Litchfield National Park on our Northern Territory trip was an area where you could see tons of termite mounds. We had already seen several in Kakadu National Park and while driving all around the Northern Territory, but we hadn't seen so many in one place before. These structures are pretty fascinating. Termites feed on grass and plant debris found in areas that are flooded during the wet season, so they have to live above ground in the mounds. Inside the mounds are complex tunnels, arches, chimneys, insulation, etc.

The compass termite is responsible for making the magnetic termite mounds. These mounds are all aligned in a north-south orientation, with the broad faces aimed east and west. This acts as a temperature control mechanism, allowing the least possible surface area to be exposed to the sun. Our guide on the Kakadu tour told us that the temperature only fluctuates 0.2 degrees within the mound!
Below is a picture of a cathedral mound made by woodland termites. Some of these were massive! In the Kakadu post, I am standing next to one, so you can get an idea of the height. These mounds are made of chewed wood, mud, and feces (yum). If humans made a similar structure, it would be over a kilometer high!



Who knew that termites did something besides eat wood and cause problems?!

4 comments:

  1. Did you jump kick one of the mounds? I would have let out the war cry, "This is for you Morgan" as I soared through the air with my foot extended, making contact with the mound as an explosion of chewed wood, mud, and feces radiated outward in spectacular fashion. Humans - 1, Termites - 0.

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    1. For all the nature lovers out there who are reading this comment and contemplating boycotting my blog because you just can't imagine how I can associate with someone like this, I will (reluctantly) admit that this is my brother, and you should probably ignore about 75% of his comments if you don't want to be confused, offended, angered, or annoyed! :) No, Justin, I did not jump kick any mounds (although I admit it would have been interesting to witness)!

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    2. Justin, I think that is hilarious! Well said.

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