Divergence times in the termite genus Macrotermes (Isoptera: Termitidae)

R. Brandl, F. Hyodo, M. von Korff-Schmising, K. Maekawa, T. Miura, Y. Takematsu, T. Matsumoto, T. Abe, R. Bagine, M. Kaib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


The evolution of fungus-growing termites is supposed to have started in the African rain forests with multiple invasions of semi-arid habitats as well as multiple invasions of the Oriental region. We used sequences of the mitochondrial COII gene and Bayesian dating to investigate the time frame of the evolution of Macrotermes, an important genus of fungus-growing termites. We found that the genus Macrotermes consists of at least 6 distantly related clades. Furthermore, the COII sequences suggested some cryptic diversity within the analysed African Macrotermes species. The dates calculated with the COII data using a fossilized termite mound to calibrate the clock were in good agreement with dates calculated with COI sequences using the split between Locusta and Chortippus as calibration point which supports the consistency of the calibration points. The clades from the Oriental region dated back to the early Tertiary. These estimates of divergence times suggested that Macrotermes invaded Asia during periods with humid climates. For Africa, many speciation events predated the Pleistocene and fall in range of 6-23 million years ago. These estimates suggest that savannah-adapted African clades radiated with the spread of the semi-arid ecosystems during the Miocene. Apparently, events during the Pleistocene were of little importance for speciation within the genus Macrotermes. However, further investigations are necessary to increase the number of taxa for phylogenetic analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-250
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Cryptic species
  • Cytochrome oxidase II
  • Fungus-growing termites
  • Molecular clock

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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