Solar-Powered Ventilation of African Termite Mounds
Turner, J Scott
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CitationOcko, Samuel A., Hunter King, David Andreen, Paul Bardunias, J. Scott Turner, Rupert Soar, and L. Mahadevan. 2017. Solar-Powered Ventilation of African Termite Mounds. Journal of Experimental Biology 220: 3260-3269.
AbstractHow termite mounds function to facilitate climate control is still only partially understood. Recent experimental evidence in the mounds of a single species, the south Asian termite Odontotermes obesus, suggests that the daily oscillations of radiant heating associated with diurnal insolation patterns drive convective flow within them. How general this mechanism is remains unknown. To probe this, we consider the mounds of the African termite Macrotermes michaelseni, which thrives in a very different environment. By directly measuring air velocities and temperatures within the mound, we see that the overall mechanisms and patterns involved are similar to that in the south Asian species. However, there are also some notable differences between the physiology of these mounds associated with the temporal variations in radiant heating patterns and CO2 dynamics. Because of the difference between direct radiant heating driven by the position of the sun in African conditions, and the more shaded south Asian environments, we see changes in the convective flows in the two types of mounds. Furthermore, we also see that the south Asian mounds show a significant overturning of stratified gases, once a day, while the African mounds have a relatively uniform concentration of CO2. Overall, our observations show that despite these differences, termite architectures can harness periodic solar heating to drive ventilation inside them in very different environments, functioning as an external lung, with clear implications for human engineering.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41302401
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