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Staff Profiles

Kumar Krishna

Resident Research Associate

  • Research Interests

    Research Interests

      Kumar Krishna, resident Research Associate at the Museum and Emeritus Professor of Biology at City College, City University of New York, has been working 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 the eminent Alfred. E. Emerson before joining the Museum 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 and 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. Thus, though it is a relatively small order as insects go, a massive body of literature has been produced on the Isoptera. In addition to its renowned collection of termite specimens (for details see Other Insects under Collections), the AMNH has the most complete library on all aspects of termite literature (except Control), beginning 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 Krishna has concentrated on producing a database catalogue, which will provide complete and up-to-date references to all systematic, zoogeographical, and biological information available for each species of Isoptera. The catalogue will be 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 has also collaborated with Grimaldi and Engel in the study of fossil termites in amber from the Cretaceous, considerably enlarging our knowledge of the fossil record and the evolution of the Isoptera.

  • Publications


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