African Termite Mounds
Summary: Africa is home to the largest structures ever built relative to the size of the builder. Termite mounds found in Africa can rise to heights of over thirty feet. In comparison, man would have to erect a building 2,743 feet high. The current tallest building is being built in Dubai and will rise to a mere 1,922 feet.
Termites play a crucial role in the ecosystem of Africa. They are great decomposers of wood and plant debris, they aerate the soil of the savannah and add nutrients to it, and they are a food source for many animals, including man. They are also in the diet of native Africans and are considered a delicacy.
Termite mounds have been an inspiration for humans who want to mimic the fantastic ventilation system used in the termite structures. Hot air rises through tubes in the above ground mounds while winds from outside send air currents down into the subterranean chambers so temperature is regulated no matter the weather outside. This efficiency might be able to be put to use in the homes of people.
Termite mounds have been studied for use in road construction in Africa. The secretion used by termites to make the soil of their mounds hard is so effective that roads are being built using these same chemicals. The roads are cheaper and more durable than asphalt roads.
Termites dig deep into the earth in search of water. They can go down farther than two hundred feet, and all that soil is brought up to ground level and added to the structure of the mound. For this reason, ore is mixed into the termite mound. The soil of the mound can be inspected by geologists to see what lies deeper in the earth. Gold prospectors are known to inspect termite mounds. In fact, the largest diamond mine in the world, in Botswana, was discovered by examining a termite mound.
Scientists estimate the egg production of some termite species found in African to be as high as 50,000 eggs a day! This amounts to 25 million eggs over the course of the termite queen's lifetime. No wonder those mounds get so big, huh!
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