Characterization of the 12S rRNA Gene Sequences of the Harvester Termite Anacanthotermes ochraceus (Blattodea: Hodotermitidae) and Its Role as A Bioindicator of Heavy Metal Accumulation Risks in Saudi Arabia.


Zoology Department, College of Science, King Saud University, Riyadh 11451, Saudi Arabia. [Email]


Termites are social insects of economic importance that have a worldwide distribution. Identifying termite species has traditionally relied on morphometric characters. Recently, several mitochondrial genes have been used as genetic markers to determine the correlation between different species. Heavy metal accumulation causes serious health problems in humans and animals. Being involved in the food chain, insects are used as bioindicators of heavy metals. In the present study, 100 termite individuals of Anacanthotermesochraceus were collected from two Saudi Arabian localities with different geoclimatic conditions (Riyadh and Taif). These individuals were subjected to morphological identification followed by molecular analysis using mitochondrial 12S rRNA gene sequence, thus confirming the morphological identification of A.ochraceus. Furthermore, a phylogenetic analysis was conducted to determine the genetic relationship between the acquired species and other termite species with sequences previously submitted in the GenBank database. Several heavy metals including Ca, Al, Mg, Zn, Fe, Cu, Mn, Ba, Cr, Co, Be, Ni, V, Pb, Cd, and Mo were measured in both collected termites and soil samples from both study sites. All examined samples (termite and soil) showed high concentrations of metals with different concentrations and ratios. Generally, most measured metals had a significantly high concentration in soil and termites at Taif, except for Ca, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Mg, and Ni showing significantly high concentrations at Riyadh. Furthermore, termites accumulated higher amounts of heavy metals than the soil at both locations. The mean concentrations of the measured metals in soil samples were found to be in the descending order Ca ˃ Al ˃ Mg ˃ Zn ˃ Fe ˃ Cu ˃ Mn ˃ Ba ˃ Cr ˃ Co ˃ Be ˃ Ni ˃ V ˃ Pb ˃ Cd ˃ Mo, while it was Ca ˃ Mg ˃ Al ˃ Fe ˃ Zn ˃ Cu ˃ Mn ˃ Be ˃ Ba ˃ Pb ˃ Cr ˃ V ˃ Ni ˃ Cd ˃ Mo ˃ Co in termite specimens. The mean concentrations of the studied metals were determined in the soil and termite specimens at both locations. In addition, the contamination factor, pollution load index (PLI) and degree of contamination were calculated for all studied metals in different samples, indicating that both studied sites were polluted. However, Taif showed a significantly higher degree of pollution. Thus, the accurate identification of economically important insects, such as termites, is of crucial importance to plan for appropriate control strategies. In addition, termites are a good bioindicator to study land pollution.


Blattodea,accumulation,biological indicators,molecular analysis,trace metals,