Estimating Global Termite Species Richness Using Extrapolation

Reginaldo Constantino


Cumulative species description curves since 1758 are given for all termites of the world and for each biogeographical region (Australian, Ethiopian, Nearctic, Neotropical, Oriental, Palearctic, and Papuan). A cumulative description curve is also given for world genera. Estimation by maximum likelihood using the Michaelis-Menten model suggests a maximum of 5366 ± 175 species (p < 2.2E-16) and 704 ± 77 genera (p < 4.387E-13). Model fitting was poor for most individual biogeographical regions, with the exception of the Ethiopian region (estimate = 1295 ± 57 species, p < 2.2E-16). World War I and World War II had marked negative impacts on termite description rates. Data from China was treated separately due to the atypical rate of description of new termites in that country during the last two decades of the 20th century.


Isoptera, diversity, Michaelis-Menten, curve-fitting, maximum likelihood

Full Text:



Acioli, A.N.S. & Constantino, R. (2015). A taxonomic revision of the neotropical termite genus Ruptitermes (Isoptera, Termitidae, Apicotermitinae). Zootaxa, 4032: 451–492. doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.4032.5.1.

Colwell, R.K. & Coddington, J.A. (1994). Estimating terrestrial biodiversity through extrapolation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B, 345: 101–118. doi: 10.1098/rstb.1994.0091.

Constantino, R. (2016). Termite Database. (accessed date: 30 June, 2017).

Crosland, M. (1995). Taxonomic splitters in China. Isoptera Newsletter, 5: 1.

Desneux, J. (1904). Isoptera Fam. Termitidae. In P. Wytsman (Ed.), Genera Insectorum (pp. 1–52). Vol. 25. Brussels: V. Verteneuil & L. Desmet,.

Eggleton, P. (1999). Termite species description rates and the state of termite taxonomy. Insectes Sociaux, 46: 1–5. doi: 10.1007/s000400050105.

Krishna, K., Grimaldi, D.A., Krishna, V. & Engel, M.S. (2013). Treatise on the Isoptera of the world. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 377: 1–2704. doi: 10.1206/377.1.

Linnaeus, C. (1758). Systema Naturae. 10th ed. Stockholm: Laurentii Salvii, 823 p.

May, R.M. (1994). Conceptual aspects of the quantification of the extent of biological diversity. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological sciences, 345: 13–20. doi: 10.1098/rstb.1994.0082.

Miller, L.R. (1991). A revision of the Termes - Capritermes branch of the Termitinae in Australia (Isoptera: Termitidae). Invertebrate Taxonomy, 4: 1147–1282. doi: 10.1071/IT9901147.

Mora, C., Tittensor, D.P., Adl, S., Simpson, A.G.B. & Worm, B. (2011). How many species are there on earth and in the ocean? PLoS Biology, 9: 1–8. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001127.

Paxton, C. (1998). A cumulative species description curve for large open water marine animals. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 78: 1389–1391. doi: 10.1017/S0025315400044611.

R Core Team. (2017). R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing,.

Ritz, C., Baty, F., Streibig, J.C. & Gerhard, D. (2015). Dose-Response Analysis Using R. PLOS ONE, 10: 1–13. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0146021.

Sands, W.A. (1972). The soldierless termites of Africa (Isoptera: Termitidae). Bulletin of the British Museum of Natural History, Entomological Supplement, 18: 1–244.

Scheffrahn, R.H. & Krecek, J. (1999). Termites of the genus Cryptotermes Banks (Isoptera: Kalotermitidae) from the West Indies. Insecta Mundi, 13: 111–171.

Snyder, T.E. (1949). Catalog of the termites (Isoptera) of the World. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 112: 1–490.

Stork, N.E., McBroom, J., Gely, C. & Hamilton, A.J. (2015). New approaches narrow global species estimates for beetles, insects, and terrestrial arthropods. PNAS, 112: 7519–7523. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1502408112.

Wilson, E.O. (1971). The Insect Societies. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 548 p.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

JCR Impact Factor 2016: 0.699