How Termites Ventilate

September 11, 2015

Fig. 3: Thermal images of a termite mound

As builders go, termites don’t have many tools at their disposal — just their bodies, soil, and saliva. For guidance they have nothing to go on save variations in wind speed and direction and fluctuations in temperature as the sun rises and sets.

Despite such limitations, the insects have managed to develop structures that are efficiently ventilated, a challenge that’s still a struggle for human builders.

Led by L. Mahadevan, Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and of Physics, a team of researchers that included postdoctoral fellow Hunter King and grad student Samuel Ocko has for the first time described in detail how termite mounds are ventilated...

Read the rest of the Gazette article and the original paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: H. Kinga, S. Ockob, and L. Mahadevan, "Termite mounds harness diurnal temperature oscillations for ventilation," PNAS Early Edition DOI: www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.14232421.