Termite header

By Dr. Stuart Mitchell

Morphometrics (Greek, “morphe” or form and “metros” or measure) is the study of structure through shape. It is the quantitative description and analysis of shape and shape variation. Morphometrics is a technique of taxonomic analysis using measurements of the form of organisms.

Taxonomically (“method of arrangement”), termites are now of the Infraorder Blattodea (cockroaches). An Infraorder is a taxonomic category in biological classification ranking above a Superfamily and below a Suborder (higher than a Family). Isoptera (“equal wings”) are a group of eusocial (socially organized) insects.

Current termite taxonomy, in particular the Genus Reticulitermes, is in the midst of revision. Applied biology is greatly improved through better understanding of the species, its morphotypes (specimen of one form of a polymorphic species), and its ecology. Using morphometric data coupled with other research data, a species is better defined.

Morphometric methodology is of superior quality in gleaning information about the shape of an organism. Such rich quantitative information results in potent statistical procedures for testing differences in shape. Visualizing differences in shape and indicating simple traditional measurements to be used in future studies are accomplished by researchers (especially for taxonomy).

Morphometrics consists of procedures that expedite mapping of visual form information into mathematical representation. Exposed to many forces through biological processes (known and unknown), biological form changes. Such forces may have simultaneous effect. Long-term evolution and short-term life cycles are force influencers. Physiochemical factors and biomechanical forces are essentially obligatory during the life cycle.

A representation of the relationship of measurement to the biological process includes five steps:

  1. Observation
  2. Simplification
  3. Analysis
  4. Interpretation
  5. Verification

From the biological system, data is gathered to formulate a model. Data must be sufficient and simplified (otherwise too difficult to construct a model).

Conclusions are drawn about the biological process after the model is analyzed. Conclusions allow for interpretations that further refine the model for implementation. Independent and new data will then put the model to the test.

Failure to properly identify the species of termite and its specific behavior can result in termiticide label violations, treatment failure, and possible liability. Morphometric research provides better downstream reference and educational materials for PMPs. With such knowledge, less invasive and significantly more effective termite interventions and eliminations are assured.


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