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The diversity of termite species is low in North America and Europe (10 species known in Europe and 50 in North America), but is high in South America, where over 400 species are known.
Of the 3,000 termite species currently classified, 1,000 are found in Africa, where mounds are extremely abundant in certain regions.
As of 2013, about 3,106 living and fossil termite species are recognised, classified in 12 families.
The infraorder Isoptera is divided into the following clade and family groups, showing the subfamilies in their respective classification: Termites are found on all continents except Antarctica.
Unlike ants, which undergo a complete metamorphosis, each individual termite goes through an incomplete metamorphosis that proceeds through egg, nymph, and adult stages.
Colonies are described as superorganisms because the termites form part of a self-regulating entity: the colony itself.
Other researchers advocate the more conservative measure of retaining the termites as the Termitoidae, an epifamily within the cockroach order, which preserves the classification of termites at family level and below.
All colonies have fertile males called "kings" and one or more fertile females called "queens".
Termites mostly feed on dead plant material and cellulose, generally in the form of wood, leaf litter, soil, or animal dung.
Ants belong to the family Formicidae within the order Hymenoptera.
The similarity of their social structure to that of termites is attributed to convergent evolution.