It’s official: Termites are just cockroaches with a fancy social life | Science News

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It’s official: Termites are just cockroaches with a fancy social life

Reordering demotes one infamous insect group to being a mere branch of an equally infamous one

By
7:00am, March 1, 2018
Mastotermes darwiniensis termite

FUNNY COCKROACH  Calling a termite (Mastotermes darwiniensis from Australia, shown) a kind of cockroach has now become perfectly correct, says the name-watch committee of an organization of U.S. insect scientists.

Termites are the new cockroach.

Literally. The Entomological Society of America is updating its master list of insect names to reflect decades of genetic and other evidence that termites belong in the cockroach order, called Blattodea.

As of February 15, “it’s official ... that termites no longer have their own order,” says Mike Merchant of Texas A&M University in College Station, chair of the organization’s common names committee. Now all termites on the list are being recategorized.

The demotion brings to mind Pluto getting kicked off the roster of planets, says termite biologist Paul Eggleton of the Natural History Museum in London. He does not, however, expect a galactic outpouring of heartbreak and protest over the termite downgrade. Among specialists, discussions of termites as a

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