Death of an order: a comprehensive molecular phylogenetic study confirms that termites are eusocial cockroaches

Daegan Inward, George Beccaloni, Paul Eggleton
  • Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences, April 2007, Royal Society Publishing
  • DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2007.0102

Termites are extremely social cockroaches

What is it about?

We found out, using DNA sequences, that termites are actually cockroaches in a similar way that birds are dinosaurs. All their close relatives are cockroaches and both their closet relative and the closest relative of that group are cockroaches. We explain why this makes sense, in biological and evolutionary terms.

Why is it important?

Up to this point there had been a fierce academic debate about the position of termites in relation to cockroaches and this was the first properly collected comprehensive data on the subject. the idea wasn't new, but this was better proof than had been collected before. Also - because termites were shown to be cockroaches, we proposed a demotion in the classification of the group from an Order (Isoptera) to a family (Termitidae; later revised to an Epifamily, Termitoidae)


Dr Paul Eggleton
The Natural History Museum, London

This paper was only possible due to the expertise and extensive contacts of co-author George Beccaloni. He was able to obtain all of the cockroach specimens that we needed. At the time this paper was a bit controversial, but it's findings are mostly accepted now.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Paul Eggleton