Taiwanese experts use indigenous term to name new termite species

Stylotermes are rare type of termites found in Asia

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Assistant Professor Li Hou-feng (right) with Ph.D. student Liang Wei-ren and the new termite variety (photo from National Chung Hsing University).

Assistant Professor Li Hou-feng (right) with Ph.D. student Liang Wei-ren and the new termite variety (photo from National Chung Hsing University). (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) - For the first time, a new species of termite has been named by Taiwanese scientists, who used the Bunun indigenous term “halum” to register the “Stylotermes halumicus” found in Taitung County.

The authors of the new name, National Chung Hsing University assistant professor Li Hou-feng (李後鋒) and Ph.D. student Liang Wei-ren (梁維仁), form part of an international team including colleagues from National Taiwan University, China, Belgium and the Czech Republic, the Central News Agency reported Friday.

The Stylotermes is one of nine types of termites and is only found in Asia at present, with few discoveries reported since 1980.

Li said the team’s discovery amounted to a new page in the study of termites, according to CNA. When the scientists discovered the termite in 2014, they initially believed that it was only a larger specimen of one of the 20 varieties of termites already known in Taiwan, Li said.

Further study revealed the insect to be one of the Stylotermes, and the scientists wanted to thank the Bunun people for their help protecting rare wildlife by using a word from their language to name the new species, CNA reported.