Nasutitermes corniger

article - Nasutitermes corniger

Nasutitermes corniger is a species of arborealtermite that is endemic to the neotropics. It is very closely related to Nasutitermes ephratae.[1] The species has been studied relatively intensively, particularly on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. These studies and others have shown that the termite interacts with many different organisms including a bat that roosts in its nest and various species of ants that cohabit with the termite.

Species of termite

Nasutitermes corniger
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Blattodea
Infraorder: Isoptera
Family: Termitidae
Genus: Nasutitermes
N. corniger
Binomial name
Nasutitermes corniger

(Motschulsky, 1855)

. . . Nasutitermes corniger . . .

The nests of N. corniger are dark brown on the surface and have small bumps over their exterior. When small (less than 20 cm in diameter) they tend to be spherical but as they grow they become more elliptical. There may also be localised lobes on the surface of the nest. The queen lives in a chamber located in the centre of the nest, (often near the tree trunk or branch to which the nest is attached), that is up to 8 cm wide and 1 cm high and heavily reinforced. The thickness of the walls in the nest decreases away from the queen and towards the exterior although if the nest is attacked by predators then the walls will be reinforced. In one study of their nests the heaviest nest identified weighed 28 kilograms and measured 68 cm by 46 cm by 34 cm.[1]

Fertile individuals of N. corniger have black wings, dark bodies, and ocelli which are located relatively far from the eyes.[1]

Termite colonies are examples of eusocial insects. Eusocial insects are animals that develop large, multigenerational cooperative societies that assist each other in the rearing of young, often at the cost of an individual’s life or reproductive ability. Such altruism is explained in that eusocial insects benefit from giving up reproductive ability of many individuals to improve the overall fitness of closely related offspring. Hamilton’s rule is the key to explaining this phenomenon, where altruism is justified evolutionarily when the benefit to the individual receiving the help, weighted by the relatedness to said individual, outweighs the cost to the organism being altruistic. In most cases, termites included, individuals specialize to fill different needs that the overall colony may have. These are called castes. In Nasutitermes as well as most other termite species, there are three main castes: reproductive alates, workers, and soldiers.

The benefits to being altruistic come in two ecological modes: “life insurers” and “fortress defenders”.[2] Most Hymenoptera, the large majority of social insects, are life insurers, where eusociality is adapted as a safeguard from decreased life expectancy of offspring.[3] Termites, as fortress defenders, benefit from working together to best exploit a valuable ecological resource, in the case of Nasutitermes corniger a vast wood gallery. Fortress defense is sufficient to evolve eusociality when three criteria are met: food coinciding with shelter, selection for defense against intruders and predators, and the ability to defend such a habitat.[4] Termite colonies are generally large enclosed nests or mounds that house large supplies of wood for the termites to exploit, fulfilling the first criteria for fortress defense. In N. corniger, the soldier caste has had their heads modified to spew a noxious, sticky liquid when under attack from Tamandua anteaters.[5] The secretion contains pinene, limonene and other high molecular weight compounds that deter the anteater from returning. The termites then remain on guard near the breach for several minutes. This adaptive morphology and defense of the habitat are sufficient for satisfying the second two criteria for fortress defense. The fortress defense strategy necessitated the evolution of soldiers first, which has resulted in the unique specialization of the nasute termites.

. . . Nasutitermes corniger . . .

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. . . Nasutitermes corniger . . .

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