Reynolds River and Magnetic Termites

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From the Daly River 4WD track we traveled to Litchfield Park and Wangi Falls. We finally camped at Odyssey Safari's Minjunari (Place of the Blue Water Lily) on the floodplain of the Reynolds River. There were three kinds termites easily visible during the trip through Litchfield Park to our campsite.

Tree-piping termites (Coptotermes acinaciformis) build tunnels up living trees (thin dark lines on trunk) and consume dead wood where they find it in the tree (open eucalypt woodland at Wangi Falls). Eucalyptus papuana?

Magnetic termites (Amitermes meridionalis) are adapted to living on floodplains with waterlogged soil. The termites cannot migrate above and below ground to regulate their temperature during the hot tropical summer (underground there is a retreat from the heat of the day). The mounds are oriented north-south to facilitate temperature regulation above ground. A description of their natural history with some references is in this PDF file (you need Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free program to open it). These mounds average 2.5 meters tall.

Nasutitermes triodiae (cathedral termite, spinifex termite) build mounds in open eucalypt woodland. They are more widely distributed in Australia than the magnetic termites and live where they can retreat underground from the tropical heat. Eucalypt woodland recently burned.

An abrupt transition in ecology between flooded ground and woodland produces abrupt change in the species of termites that inhabit the area. You can see the magnetic termite colony in the foreground (floods during the Wet) and a pair of cathedral termite colonies in the eucalypt woodland.