Determining urban exploiter status of a termite using genetic analysis.
Urban ecosystems are characterized by "urban exploiters": species that thrive in the modified environment of cities. Few insects have been categorized as such, in part because they are usually considered as pests first, in part because many studies do not identify to species, and in part because many insects can survive in small vegetated areas within the urban matrix. Some termites may be prime examples of urban exploiters; Coptotermes species are rare in natural forests, but are abundant and major pests in urban areas. We investigated the genetic structure of the South East Asian species Coptotermes gestroi in the urban nation of Singapore. There was a panmictic population across the city, yet all 29 colonies were genetically distinct, and many had expanded from recent bottlenecks. There were no significant differences between colonies in vegetated areas (forests and parks), and those in urban habitats. The genetic pattern is similar to some other urban exploiter species in comparable environments, thus confirming C. gestroi is a native species that has become an urban exploiter, the first termite to be considered as such.