A Fascinating Nutritional System
Termites’ nutritional needs differ from those of other creatures, because their staple is cellulose—an energy-rich source of carbohydrates found in green plants. But because cellulose is thick and difficult to decompose, most insects cannot digest it.
The digestive enzymes secreted by most animals cannot break down this thick carbohydrate. Termites are one of the rare creatures that have the ability to digest cellulose and actually nourish themselves with wood, which to us is wholly indigestible.
But something else makes this nutritional system even more remarkable. The termites themselves have no ability to break down cellulose in wood; they can do so only because of microorganisms living in their guts.22
These organisms, each the size of a micron, perform their complex chemical functions in this fashion:
Symbiosis: a Balance Within a Balance
Among the many examples of symbiosis in nature is that of termites and the unicellular protozoa living in their intestines. The flagellates that live and move about with their flagella in the termites’ intestines possess special enzymes able to break down the cellulose of the ingested wood and making it utilizable for themselves and their hosts. This process takes place in a special section of the termites’ intestinal tract that has widened to form a fermentation chamber. The flagellates multiply profusely, supplying their hosts with not only digestible carbohydrates but also with their necessary protein—because the surplus population of these small organisms is itself digested in the termites’ gut.23
These single-celled protozoa could not survive on their own and so they become attached to termites and other insects. On the other hand, if these single-celled creatures did not exist, termites could not digest the cellulose in wood and provide energy for themselves.
For this reason, the two creatures must have come together at the same time. If termites were born in the absence of these single-celled creatures, they would die from being unable to digest their food. But as usual, evolutionists assert that these creatures came into existence in various ways through some imaginary process of evolution and later decided to enter into a symbiotic relationship with one another. But then, evolutionists are bound to answer the question of how termites and the protozoa could manage to survive before they encountered each other.
What contradicts evolutionist claims in this symbiosis is that these two creatures must have come into existence at the same time. Evolutionist claims assume that creatures are in a state of constant development, choosing whatever ways of behavior are most beneficial and advantageous for them. This being the case, the symbiotic relationship between termites and their protozoa presents a problem for evolutionists. Why do these single-celled creatures attach themselves to termites, break down cellulose and give it to their hosts to ensure their survival?
These two different creatures living together and complementing each other’s physical systems is clear proof that they could not have come into existence—much less together—by chance. Everywhere we are confronted by the evident fact that the world functions according to a flawless system. This implies that Someone ensures this order; it is God Who has created the whole universe in all its perfection. He has the infinite power to know the needs of every creature on Earth and endows them with the systems they need.
He has inspired termites to know what they must eat; He created protozoa for the benefit of termites, and placed these creatures within their tiny bodies to ensure their survival. In the Qur’an, God tells us that He feeds all living creatures:
There is no creature on the Earth which is not dependent upon God for its provision. He knows where it lives and where it dies. They are all in a Clear Book. (Surah Hud: 6)
Nutritional Habits of Other Members of a Termite Colony
Another interesting thing about termite colonies is that the workers feed the queen, the king, the soldiers and the larvae.
The workers perform this duty, providing every member of the colony without fail with the nourishment they need. Especially the queen and soldier termites would go without food if the workers did not feed them. When she begins laying eggs, the queen becomes so heavy that she cannot move and needs to be fed by others. The soldiers’ head has a structure appropriate for defending the nest; their mouths are more suited to repelling intruders than to eating and therefore, they too must be fed by the workers. Also, the larvae are fed for a while by the workers with food they had digested themselves. This is very important because, in this way, the workers “seed” the bodies of the new termites the vital microorganisms they will need to digest cellulose. And a short while later, as they grow larger, the new termites become able to digest their own food, thanks to the protozoa that the workers put into their systems.24
As you see, the workers are responsible for the care of most of the other termites. In nourishing their colony, they show a high degree of self-sacrifice—clear proof that the claims of the theory of evolution are basically untenable. If the natural world were merely an arena of conflict where only the strong survive, the workers would let the other starve and might even kill them. But termites act totally opposite to the claims of evolutionists, feeding the whole colony tirelessly, without ceasing and with no hope of reward.
It seems remarkable that soldier termites are fed by the workers, because the soldiers would appear to be the strongest members of the colony.
Evolutionists cannot explain why these stronger individuals have been dependent on workers for their survival for millions of years. As stated earlier, one basic aspect of the theory of evolution is the idea of natural selection, that the strong must struggle to survive. Meanwhile, as claimed, over long billions of years, they developed the qualities they needed for survival. If we apply this same mythological claim to termites, we’d expect the soldiers to acquire the necessary traits and eliminate their nourishment problems. Evolutionists regard one creature’s dependence on another as a disadvantage. But as we can see clearly in the fossil record, and contrary to what evolutionists claim, termites have not undergone any physical change in 250 million years; they have continued to survive as termites.
In one moment of creation, God made soldier termites with their special endowments and a mouth structure that prevents them from feeding themselves. At the same moment, He made worker termites with their selfless industriousness, and the queen with her astounding reproductive ability.
The attentiveness of worker termites to the duties inspired in them, and their care for feeding the whole colony are manifestations of God’s signs. In the Qur’an,; God tells us that He feeds all creatures:
How many creatures do not carry their provision with them! God provides for them and He will for you. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing. (Surat al-‘Ankabut: 60)