Oligocene termite nests with in situ fungus gardens from the Rukwa Rift Basin, Tanzania, support a paleogene African origin for insect agriculture

Roberts, Eric M., Todd, Christopher N., Aanen, Duur K., Nobre, Tânia, Hilbert-Wolf, Hannah L., O'Connor, Patrick M., Tapanila, Leif, Mtelela, Cassy, and Stevens, Nancy J. (2016) Oligocene termite nests with in situ fungus gardens from the Rukwa Rift Basin, Tanzania, support a paleogene African origin for insect agriculture. PLoS ONE, 11 (6). e0156847. pp. 1-17.

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Abstract

Based on molecular dating, the origin of insect agriculture is hypothesized to have taken place independently in three clades of fungus-farming insects: the termites, ants or ambrosia beetles during the Paleogene (66–24 Ma). Yet, definitive fossil evidence of fungus-growing behavior has been elusive, with no unequivocal records prior to the late Miocene (7–10 Ma). Here we report fossil evidence of insect agriculture in the form of fossil fungus gardens, preserved within 25 Ma termite nests from southwestern Tanzania. Using these well-dated fossil fungus gardens, we have recalibrated molecular divergence estimates for the origins of termite agriculture to around 31 Ma, lending support to hypotheses suggesting an African Paleogene origin for termite-fungus symbiosis; perhaps coinciding with rift initiation and changes in the African landscape.

Item ID: 44737
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Additional Information:

© 2016 Roberts et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Funders: National Science Foundation (NSF), USA, National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration (NGS-CRE), Ohio University (OU), James Cook University (JCU), Marie Curie Fellowship (MCF), Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (PFST)
Projects and Grants: NSF EAR_0617561, NSF EAR_0854218, NSF EAR 0933619, MCF FP7-PEOPLE-2012-CIG, MCF Project Reference 321725, PFST SFRH/BCC/52187/2013
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2016 05:01
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040308 Palaeontology (incl Palynology) @ 70%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040310 Sedimentology @ 30%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences @ 100%
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