Endemic origin and vast anthropogenic dispersal of the West Indian drywood termite.
Cryptotermes brevis is a common pest of structural lumber and sheltered wood in much of the non-Asian tropics. Until now, no endemic locality, as confirmed by regenerating outdoor populations, was known. A termite survey of the northern coastal desert of Chile and the vicinity of Lima, Peru, yielded 61 outdoor populations of C. brevis taken from 23 different native and exotic species of host woods at 19 localities. We review the taxonomic and biogeographic history of C. brevis and suggest climatic and biological factors that favor or limit C. brevis distribution. We also propose a scenario implicating a post-Colombian release of C. brevis by shipboard infestations and the movement of infested wood during the early Spanish Empire to the present time.