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Feeding groups, lifetypes and the global ecology of termites

Authors

  • Paul Eggleton,

    Corresponding author
    1. Termite Research Group, Entomology Department, The Natural History Museum, London, SW7 5BD, United Kingdom and
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  • Ichiro Tayasu

    1. Laboratoire d’Ecologie des Sols Tropicaux, Institute de Recherche pour le Développement, 32 Avenue Henri Varagnat, 93143 Bondy Cedex, France
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*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed. Email: P.Eggleton@nmh.ac.uk

Abstract

Two termite functional classifications (Abe’s lifetypes and Donovan’s feeding groups) are evaluated, and then synthesized to make a single unified ‘lifeway’ matrix classification with eight categories. The systematics and biogeography of the lifeway groups are outlined. The lifeways are then tested against other relevant data on termite ecology (stable isotopes, molecular probes, survey data) to show that they consistently reflect real distinctions in termite biology. The advantages and disadvantages of each lifeway are discussed in the context of energy availability, nitrogen balance, foraging and nest-building energetics, and biogeographical dispersal ability. Finally, an ecological evolutionary scheme is outlined for the global ecology of termites using the lifeway classification as a framework.

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