Termites got to Australia on trees?, according to articles in ScienceDaily 21 February 2017, University of Sydney News 22 February 2017 and Biology Letters, doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2016.0665, 22 February 2017. An international group of scientists led by Nathan Lo of University of Sydney have carried out a study of the genomes of the termite subfamily Nasutitermitinae, whose main claim to fame is the building of enormous mounds in northern regions of Australia.
According to University of Sydney news, “DNA sequencing found the forebearers, called nasute termites, colonised Australia three times in the past 20 million years or so and evolved from wood to grass-feeding as they adapted to significant environmental changes, including increasingly arid conditions and the conversion of woodlands to grassland habitats in subtropical savannahs and central Australia”.
Mound building termites do not eat wood. They eat grass and leaf litter. The researchers also concluded “Grass feeding appears to have evolved from wood feeding via ancestors that fed on both wood and leaf litter. Our results underscore the adaptability of termites to ancient environmental change, and provide novel examples of parallel evolution of extended phenotypes”.
Nathan Lo explained: “We found that the ancestors of Australia’s fortress-building termites were coastal tree-dwellers, which arrived in Australia by rafting long distances over the oceans from either Asia or South America. Once in Australia, they continued to build their nests in trees, but later descended and began building mounds on the ground instead, paralleling the evolution of the other great architects of the world — human beings, whose ancestors lived in the tree tops some millions of years ago”.
Editorial Comment: Surprise, surprise – the change from wood eating to grass and leaf eating does not actually require evolution. Termites themselves cannot digest wood unless they have the right kinds of micro-organisms living in their guts. They can only digest grass and leaves if they have the right gut microbes as well. It is the gut microbes that breakdown the tough fibres in wood or the fibrous tissues in the grass, and the grass and leaf litter microbes, are different from the wood eating ones. Therefore, to change their diets, all that is needed would be a change in microbes, which as you should know even occurs for people if you change your yoghurt or your town water supply, when you or the termites move to a different environment where there are different microbes.
This ‘rafting’ is also the answer to the often scornful question about what did termites eat on Noah’s ark. Noah was not endangered by having termites on the Ark since termites, already inside floating trees, could even have survived outside the Ark chewing happily away inside waterproof logs or on mats of vegetation, and debris ripped up by the flood. The scientists seem to be quite right about how termites got to Australia – just way out in time terms. After Noah’s Flood termites could easily have spread all over the world on rafts of debris and settled wherever they found suitable habitat and could form any required symbiotic relationship with microbes, just like you and I do when we move districts.
Finally, it is important to note that analysing the DNA of living termites will only reveal what genes termites have now. The conclusions about what their ancestors were doing, and how long ago they did it, are based on molecular evolutionary trees that only exist in the minds of those who already believe evolution regardless of the facts. No-one has seen termites evolve from another kind of insect, and termites do not show any signs of changing into any other kind.
The known evidence about termites fits far better with the Biblical history of the world. Termites were created to live in a symbiotic relationship with microbes and help recycle nutrients through the ecosystem by eating grass, leaf litter, trees as well as other fibrous plant material. After Noah’s flood they spread to wherever they could find suitable places to live, and ate whatever their symbiotic microbes could help them digest.
Evidence News vol. 17, No. 6
19 April 2017
Creation Research Australia