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Creation 18(2):24–25, March 1996

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Darwin’s termites


termite wings
Discarded termite wings.

The wings in the photo were shed by termites after their nuptial flight in Australia.

During the summer rains in northern Australia, immense numbers of termites take to the air at sunset where the future queens and queen consorts find each other. In pairs they return to the ground, throw off their four wings, and disappear underground. Where termites have swarmed, the soil is littered with their wings.

Termites, of which about 2,000 species have been described, belong to the order Isoptera, which means ‘equal-winged’. In contrast to nearly all other insects, the front and back wings look totally alike — with the exception of the species Mastotermes darwiniensis, the ‘Darwin termite’ (named after the city of Darwin in Australias Northern Territory) whose wings are shown here.

The hind-wings of Mastotermes darwiniensis possess a distinct ‘anal lobe’ similar to the one visible in cockroaches and praying mantises when they unfold their hind-wings. When this termite was described about 100 years ago, evolutionists were enthusiastic. At last the origin of these highly organized insects was thought to have been discovered! The anal lobe was the proof: ‘Termites have evolved from cockroaches!’ And only in Australia had these ‘ancestral’ termites survived.

Some of the other features which evolutionists claim link the Mastotermes termite with roaches are:

  1. Their wings possess a complicated vein pattern, while that of all other termites is more or less simple. (In this case, the complicated pattern, called the ‘archedictyon’, is considered more ‘primitive’.)

  2. Their feet consist of five very short tarsal segments, as do those of cockroaches; most other termites have only four.

  3. The eggs of Mastotermes are laid in batches of about 20 in two rows—reminiscent of the hard egg capsules of roaches. All other termite queens lay their eggs ‘production-line style’.

The presence of similarities is just as likely to indicate a common designer as an evolutionary link.

For those who already believe in evolution, such features may indeed look impressive. However, the presence of similarities is just as likely to indicate a common designer as an evolutionary link. When all the evidence is looked at, the picture of support for evolution begins to fade.

For instance, the Darwin termite is far from being a ‘primitive ancestor’. Their communities are among the most populous (therefore evolutionists might say highly evolved) of the social termite species. And like other termites, not roaches, it sheds its wings, ‘ancient’ pattern and all, at their pre-formed breakage points. The anal lobe of the hind-wings at rest is not folded up in a fan-like manner as in mantids and roaches, but is bent over flat on the rest of the wing. The correspondence with cockroaches is actually not very impressive at all.

What does the fossil evidence show? In our collection of Dominican amber, allegedly 35 million years old, is a winged Mastotermes electrodominicus which, except for its lesser size, agrees in all essentials with the Australian species, including the complex wing-vein pattern, the anal lobes and the five-segmented feet! Mastotermes at its first appearance is therefore no less ‘evolved’ than today’s ‘Darwin termite’. There is no scientific reason to believe that this termite (or any other termite) has evolved at all, whether from roach-like ancestors or any other.

Furthermore, the same amber also contains termite species which have what evolutionists regard as ‘modern’ features. There is therefore no evidence that one type is the ancestor of the other.

In short, the testimony of termites is to creation.

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by Will Zinke
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Readers’ comments

Bernard G.
Similarities prove only that things are similar. To go one step further and pretend similarities prove inter-species ancestry over deep time is not the product of observable science. But the product of the imagination.
Steven T.
In evolutionary terminology, ‘primitive’ means ‘present in the last common ancestor of the group being considered’. That is, a trait is ‘primitive’ if it was present at the very start of the group. It does not mean, necessarily, ‘crude" or ‘simple’ or ‘inferior’. Note that this usage is not an idiosyncrasy of evolutionists: the ‘Primitive Baptist’ denomination uses it in the exact same way.

Note also that a group can remain primitive in some ways and be highly derived (‘evolved’ or changed from the primitive or ancestral state) in others. This sort of ‘mosaic’ evolution, with a mix of primitive and advanced traits, is expected.
Jonathan Sarfati
It depends on the evolutionist. Many evolutionists claim evolution from primitive, in the sense of simple, to more complex.

But we are well aware of the cladistic terminology of ‘primitive’ and ‘derived’. But even one evolutionary cladistic page on a university website advocates using ‘plesiomorphic’ and ‘apomorphic’ instead, precisely because of the connotations of the word ‘primitive’, which is misleading.

E.g. the blind fish in caves have the derived characteristic of eye malformation while the ‘primitive’ characteristic would be sighted fish, i.e. with greater information. As we have often explained, including to the late Christopher Hitchens and to Dawkins, this is not evolution but devolution, where there is clearly information loss, the opposite of what is needed for goo-to-you evolution. Same with flightless beetles on windswept islands, etc.

Mosaics are expected in the creation model, in particular, the biotic message theory, as explained at the end of Tiktaalik roseae—a fishy ‘missing link’.

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