Like ants and honey bee, termites are also eusocial insects. In colonies of termites, only a few individuals have reproductive ability (called queens and kings), while other individuals perform non-reproduction tasks like foraging, brood care or defence (called workers and soldiers). Living in societies has helped termites adapt to their environments and contributed to their ecological success. As major detritivores, termites play pivotal roles in maintaining biodiversity, particularly in tropical habitats. On the other hand, termite are considered as major pests of human structures, with an annual worldwide cost in damage and control estimated at US$40 billions
Although sharing many similarities with ants and honey bee, which belong to Hymenoptera and have the unique haplodiploidy sex determination system, termites evolved the eusociality in a distantly related order called Isoptera. Termites also exhibit different pattens regarding sociality compared to social Hymenopterans. For instance, the kings of termites, which are long-term male reproductives and have the same status as the queens, are absent in social Hymenopterans. Therefore termites are a highly valuable system for studying social evolution. By far 10 social Hymenopteran genomes (8 ants and 2 bees) have been published, but no termite genome has been published yet. In a study published online today in Nature Communications, researchers from China, America and Germany have reported the sequences and analyses of the first termite genome (Zootermopsis nevadensis), revealing new insights into the molecular underpinning of complex societies in termites.
Z. nevadensis belongs to the family of dampwood termites (Termopsidae) which are rather basal termite species. Z. nevadensis has the smallest genome size known among termites (only about 500Mb), which is beneficial to building the assembly with short sequencing reads. In addition to the genomic data, the resear
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