Staff Profiles

Kumar Krishna

  • Research Interests

    Research Interests

      Kumar Krishna was a resident Research Associate at the Museum and Emeritus Professor of Biology at City College, City University of New York, who had worked on the systematics, taxonomy and evolution of termites (Isoptera) for many years. He received his Ph.D. and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago under the guidance of Alfred. E. Emerson before joining AMNH and City College in 1962. The order Isoptera comprises about 3,120 described species, living and fossil. In spite of their notoriety as insect pests, only a small number of species are destructive. In fact, termites play a critical role in the ecosystem as recyclers of cellulose, most notably in tropical rainforests. Furthermore, they have an intricate social biology that makes them interesting organisms for researchers in many fields: evolutionary biology, ecology, behavior, physiology, economic biology genetics and other areas of investigation. Although a relatively small order relative to other insect groups, a massive body of literature has been produced on the Isoptera. In addition to its renowned collection of termite specimens (for details see Isoptera), the AMNH has the most complete library on all aspects of termite literature (except for Pest Control) that begins with Linnaeus in 1758. Over the years Krishna’s research, along with his field work in Southeast Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra and Sulawesi), has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Research Foundation of the City University of New York. In recent years prior to his passing in 2014, Krishna concentrated on producing a database catalogue, which provides complete and up-to-date references to all systematic, zoogeographical, and biological information available for each species of Isoptera. The catalogue was included in a book, “Termites of the World,” published in collaboration with David Grimaldi and Michael Engel. A version of the database catalogue will ultimately be put on the World Wide Web. Krishna collaborated with Grimaldi and Engel in the study of fossil termites in amber from the Cretaceous, which enlarged considerably our knowledge of the fossil record and the evolution of the Isoptera.

  • Publications