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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2004 May;31(2):701-10.

Molecular phylogeny of Asian termites (Isoptera) of the families Termitidae and Rhinotermitidae based on mitochondrial COII sequences.

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Environmental Molecular Biology Laboratory, RIKEN, Wako, Saitama, Japan.


The families Termitidae and Rhinotermitidae are the most evolved and diverse groups of the social insects, termites (Order Isoptera), showing elaborated morphology and complex behavior. Molecular phylogeny of termites with the emphasis on these families was examined by Bayesian and maximum-likelihood analyses based on DNA sequence of mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase II (COII) gene of 31 genera sampled in Asia (mainly Thailand and Japan) along with those reported previously. Termitidae was monophyletic and originated from within polyphyletic Rhinotermitidae. Among the four subfamilies of Termitidae, Macrotermitinae was monophyletic suggesting a single common origin of fungus-growing habit characteristic for this subfamily, and was placed in the basal position in the family. A group consisting of other subfamilies Termitinae and Nasutitermitinae, though some important groups were still untouched, was the most apical but neither Termitinae nor Nasutitermitinae formed a monophyletic lineage. It was implied that, as defense systems of the soldier castes, the appearance of snapping mandibles has occurred at a single event, but the development of nasus for chemical secretion has probably not. Our tree provides some evidence concerning contradictions in the previously proposed phylogeny of termites.

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