The Atoll of Funafuti, Ellice group : its zoology, botany, ethnology and general structure based on collections made by Charles Hedley of the Australian Museum, Sydney, N.S.W.
Pseudoneuroptera. — Termitidæ. — Calotermes marginipennis, Latr
Calotermes marginipennis, Latr.
Calotermes marginipennis, Latr., Hag. Monogr., p. 47.
Catalogue of Specimens of Neuropterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum, by Dr. H. Hagen; Part I., Termitiua, p. 7.
Not the least interesting feature of the Insecta from Funafuti is a small collection of White Ants—Calotermes marginipennis, Latr. The localities recorded so far from whence examples have been obtained are California, Mexico, and Hawaii. The Rev. Thomas Blackburn collected it in the Hawaiian Islands, and it was recorded from there by McLachlan in a paper* dealing with Mr. Blackburn's collection.
* Ann. & Mag. Nat. Hist., (5), xii., pp. 266-7.
† Loc. cit, (5), xiv., p. 413.
The headquarters of Calotermes, as indeed the Termitidæ as a whole, is Tropical America, more species having been recorded from Brazil than any other part of the globe, and from whence many have distributed. Arguing from the same premises, Tropical America would appear to be the home of the Cocos tribe, the majority of its species being found within that zone. In discussing this question, Mr. W. Botting Hemsley says*:—" De Candolle states† he formerly believed it to have spread from Western America, but with fuller data and more experience in such questions, he inclines to the opinion that its original home is the Indian Archipelago; but as the thirty other species belonging to the genus are restricted to Tropical America, the first opinion seems the sounder." It is quite probable that Cocos nucifera, being an introduced plant into the Islands of the Pacific, the insect that proves so destructive to it, may also have been introduced, if not actually with, at any rate at no late date after its introduction. The distribution and association of this species of Termitid, with its host plant, therefore affords an interesting study when considered in the light of faunistic distribution, coming as it did, originally from Mexico and California. -From the early days of settlement in California, the Hawaiian Islands have been a centre of commercial enterprise with the Californians, and it is possible therefore that Calotermes marginipennis may have been introduced in Hawaii by human agency, and that when swarming numbers of these destructive insects may have been wafted from island to island. The coconut palm was first introduced into the Ellice Group during the reign of King Touassa, somewhere about two centuries ago. During the period intervening, and up to more recent times, the islands were frequently visited and raided by neighbouring islanders (see pp. 44 and 45 of Part I. of this Memoir); besides this the Ellice Group was the field of a great whaling fishery in the early forties, and this industry was pursued chiefly by Americans, who not only visited the group, but also other islands of the Pacific from Hawaii onwards, so that, taking ail these facts into consideration, it is quite reasonable to suppose that this, and other species of insects, may have been introduced by the agency of man. It is unfortunate, considering its many important bearings, that the fauna of the Pacific Islands has not been more thoroughly worked; when it is, however, the distribution of species—both fauna and flora—will doubtless form one of the most interesting and instructive lessons of modern biological investigation.
* Challenger Reports—Botany, i., 2, 1885, p. 203.
† De Candolle—Origin des Plantes Cultivees, p. 350.