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IMBERBE #12: VIRTUAL BUSHWALK (QM)

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p@m
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Unread postby p@m » Sun May 11, 2008 4:18 pm

Imberbe -- we often see trees growing out of termite mounds.
Which comes first -- the mound or the tree ?
In other words, do termites ever build a mound around a tree or does the tree always grow after the fact - a seed planted in the mound ?

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Imberbe
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Unread postby Imberbe » Sun May 11, 2008 8:18 pm

Good question p@m! And one that has often been debated.

The correct answer would probably be that there is no single answer to this.

Often the tree comes after the mound. A bird would come and roost on the mound and leave its calling card. Inside, there is a little seed, which find fertile soil and starts growing, becoming a tree.

This is often the case, and it can be proven:

You will often see a tree sitting on top of a mound. No argument which was first.

Also, you will find trees such as Tamboti, which grows in clay soils, growing in areas of sandy soil. These trees are growing on termite mounds. The termites transport clay from deep beneath the surface, to construct their mound. This creates a small clay island in a sandy area. Some trees in the Kwaggasvlakte area of Marakele NP is a case in point.

It is thought that it may also be that the tree sometimes come first. This is however a little more difficult to prove.

It is said that termites would target trees such as the Shepherds tree. This tree has deep reaching roots, that travel all the way down to the water table. As mentioned, termites use moist clay to build their nests. These roots creates a route down to the moist soil, which the termites can follow, without too much digging. In this way the mound starts next to an already established tree.

:wink:
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Imberbe
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Unread postby Imberbe » Sat May 17, 2008 10:33 pm

Talking about different classes of termites ...

As mentioned there is a soldier class, whose task it is to protect the colony. Now have a close look at these soldiers.

Image

What interesting adaption do you see, and can you explain the reason for it?
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Dotty
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Unread postby Dotty » Sat May 17, 2008 11:28 pm

Well :? I don't see any antenna or eyes and no pincers,just a single spike????
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Imberbe
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Unread postby Imberbe » Sat May 17, 2008 11:35 pm

The eyes are there, just very small.

As for the "spike" ... any ideas?
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Unread postby RosemaryH » Sun May 18, 2008 7:27 pm

It's used to squirt a sticky liquid, which acts as a repellant, when attacked. However not sufficient to repel Mr Aardvark!!
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Dotty
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Unread postby Dotty » Mon May 19, 2008 1:02 pm

If that is so, would it be formic acid like the red ants in the UK??
oweeeee!!!when gardening
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Imberbe
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Unread postby Imberbe » Mon May 19, 2008 4:35 pm

Yes, these are the soldiers of the snouted harvester termites. They started using chemical warfare long before humans did. They squirt a sticky irritant on their attackers, often ants.

I could not find out exactly what this chemicals consist of, except for it being called a "turpene". It is formed by a gland in the head of the soldier.

Note that not all soldiers of all types of termites use this technique! Most soldiers have well developed mandibles with which they will bite their enemy.
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Unread postby restio » Mon May 19, 2008 8:47 pm

Isn't nature amazing! Thanks for sharing some of her marvels with us, Imberbe! :clap:

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Imberbe
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Unread postby Imberbe » Mon May 19, 2008 8:52 pm

:thumbs_up: I'm having fun! Hope everyone else is too! :D
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Dotty
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Unread postby Dotty » Wed May 21, 2008 9:13 pm

I am for one :clap: have learnt a lot :) hope this old brain retains it :redface:
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Imberbe
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Unread postby Imberbe » Wed May 28, 2008 9:21 pm

OK, lets leave these interesting little insects behind. There is still lots to tell, but we will leave that for another day.

Lets go walking ...
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Imberbe
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Unread postby Imberbe » Wed May 28, 2008 9:42 pm

We will be going down to the river now. Lots of reeds around there. Some risk involved.

We have especially to look out for the Hippos. One never know when one may be sleeping amongst the reeds. Luckily the reeds are not that high at the moment ...
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

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Imberbe
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Unread postby Imberbe » Wed May 28, 2008 11:48 pm

Going through the reeds now. I see something in front of us!

Look ...

Image
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Dotty
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Unread postby Dotty » Wed May 28, 2008 11:53 pm

Oh!! beautiful, :D is it a young kudu?
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