Collective Mind in the Mound: How Do Termites Build Their Huge Structures?
Termites move a fourth of a metric ton of dirt to build mounds that can reach 17 feet (5 meters) and higher.
For the past 26 years, J. Scott Turner has filled termite mounds with propane, scanned them with lasers, and stuffed them with plaster. He has fed microscopic beads to termites, given the insects fluorescent green water, and even tried to turn termite behavior into a video game.
A professor of animal physiology at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, this rangy intellectual MacGyver does it all in search of clues to a biological mystery: How do tiny termites build such spectacular structures?
A single termite can be barely bigger than the moon of a fingernail, its semi-transparent exoskeleton as vulnerable to sunlight as to being crushed by a child in flip-flops. But in groups of