Studies on the taxonomy and biology of termites (Isoptera) of Peninsular Malaysia
Termites are predominantly tropical insects and the greatest abundance of species and genera occurs in the humid tropics. In Peninsular Malaysia, as in other countries, they are known pests of agricultural crops, timbers in service, and forest trees. On the other hand, they are by far more important as essential links in the dynamics of the tropical forest ecosystems as they speed up the decomposition processes. Termites are therefore economically very significant. This present study sets out to document the termite fauna of the country and has been based on the material collected by the author and colleagues of the Forest Research Institute during country wide field trips. A total of 132 spp. have been dealt with in the text, of which 62 have hitherto been unrecorded. A number of these are recognised as possibly new species. With this study, the total known termite fauna in the country comes to 178 spp. belonging to 42 genera and 3 families. The systematic studies revealed that unsatisfactory taxonomic status do exist for some of the genera and species dealt with. These are discussed and pointed out wherever relevant. All these limitations to current Malaysian termite taxonomy are further taken up in the discussions following the systematic treatment. The P. Malaysian fauna was also compared with those of the neighbouring countries which showed that Borneo and Sumata have close faunal similarities. The biogeography of most of the Malaysian genera has also been looked into and discussed. Five discrete papers have been included into the thesis to provide an insight into aspects of termite biology. Two of these deal with the biology and feeding habits of Cryptotermes cynocephalus, a common drywood termite. The role of the termite Microcerotermes dubius which causes gap formation is discussed in Paper 3 and in the next paper it has been shown that, despite being resident within the humid rainforests, the termite Dicuspiditermes nemorosus does maintain distinct annual cycles. In the last paper, already published, an unique defence behaviour by Prohamitermes mirabilis has been reported. This termite uses ready made round pellets to seal off entry points into the nest when cells are exposed.