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Application of fractal analysis for tunnel systems of subterranean termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) under laboratory conditions

Puche, H., Su, N.Y.
Environmental entomology 2001 v.30 no.3 pp. 545-549
interspecific variation, animal behavior, wood, microhabitats, Coptotermes formosanus, Reticulitermes flavipes
We used fractal geometry to analyze the morphology of the tunneling system of two subterranean termite species, Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar) and Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, and to evaluate the effect of termite species, and the presence of wood on the degree of intricacy of the tunnels represented by the fractal dimension (D), and on the abundance of tunnels (log K). The differences in D and log K, before and after termites reaching a testing chamber, were also examined. Results indicated that termite tunneling systems have a fractal structure because -2 < D < -1. The tunnel fractal dimension (D) was not significantly different between C. formosanus and R. flavipes, before or after reaching a testing chamber, suggesting that C. formosanus and R. flavipes created tunnels with the same degree of intricacy at all time periods. The abundance of tunnels, log K, was higher before reaching a testing chamber, while termites were searching for food, than after regardless of the presence of wood or the species of termite introduced in the arenas. The utility of tunnel fractal dimension deserves further study, because it may provide new ways for understanding the functional implications of the branching patterns of termite tunnels in relation to optimum soil exploration by termites.