These mounds were not movement structures, though simply piles of dirt. As a termites excavated networks of tunnels subsequent a landscape, they indispensable somewhere to drop a excavated dirt. So they carried a mud adult a executive tube to a tip of a pile and tossed it out.
That competence also explain a unchanging spacing between a mounds. At first, Dr. Funch and Dr. Martin suspicion that to be a outcome of competing colonies. But when they put a termite from one pile subsequent to one from a adjacent mound, there was no conflict, indicating they were from a same family.
They resolved a settlement was simply an fit spacing of rubbish piles.
Young, active mounds grow to 4 to 5 feet high in a integrate of years, Dr. Funch said. Most of a comparison mounds seem inactive. The scientists do not know if that means a termites have left or if they simply have no need for additional digging in a area after constructing a indispensable tunnels.
While people vital in a segment knew of a termite mounds, few outsiders did. The area of a termites’ construction were dark by scrubby timberland famous as caatinga.
“That’s because they were undiscovered for so long,” Dr. Funch said. “You can't see them in a local vegetation. And not many scientists pass this way.”
For many of a year, with temperatures reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter, a trees are destroyed white. The landscape turns immature after a brief stormy season, and afterwards a leaves fall, and a landscape grows barren again.
“These termites live on passed leaves, and they get to feed once a year,” Dr. Martin said.
As tools of a timberland were cleared, a mounds became visible, and about a decade ago, Google Earth’s satellite images became pointy adequate that Dr. Funch could mark particular mounds. He gathering to some of a sites to determine that a mounds were there.