Ancient Termites: Forefathers of farming 25 million years ago

Agriculture exist 25 million years ago but it was not practiced by humans. In fact, humans did not even exist 25 million years ago, but who is responsible for the agriculture if there were no humans back then?

The answer is termites. Scientist have sufficient evidence to back this claim, according to evidence, micro scale farming was carried out by termites when Homo sapiens did not even exist.  These ancient farmers who are the pioneers of agriculture produced fungus.

Termite workers tending fungus in their garden.

Termite workers tending fungus in their garden.

Based on a research team, led by Eric Roberts from James Cook University and researchers from Ohio, they have found some of the hoariest samples of “fungus gardens” in a 25 million year old termite nest fossil in exposed cliff sides in the Rukwa Rift Basin of southwestern Tanzania.

Based on a journal published by PLOS ONE, some species of termites develop fungi in “gardens” in their underground compartments or nest to help them transform plant substances into termite food that is easier to digest. Scientist also found out that termites have an “obligate symbiotic relationship” with the fungus. This indicates that both termites and fungus cannot exist without one another. Thus, this is further confirmed when DNA from modern day termites showed that termites have started fungus farming approximately 25 to 30 years ago while the fossil in southwestern Tanzania also serves as evidence to double confirm the date and granted researchers better understanding of the symbiotic relationship between termites and fungi.

The relationship between termites and fungus is also expected to be one of the factor that influenced how nutrients were concentrated across the landscape, manipulating the evolution of Africa’s animal and plant life.

In conclusions this is a groundbreaking finding because it helps us to understand more on evolutionary biology and environmental changes throughout the multi-million year time frame which scientist believe the earth has existed.

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