Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Birds Do It, Bees Do It; Termites Don’t, Necessarily

Scientists at North Carolina State University and three universities in Japan have shown for the first time that it is possible for certain female termite “primary queens” to reproduce both sexually and asexually during their lifetimes.

The asexually produced babies mostly grow to be queen successors – so-called “secondary queens” – that remain in the termite colony and mate with the king. This produces large broods of babies without the dangers of inbreeding, as secondary queens have no genes in common with the king.

Babies produced the old-fashioned way, between either the primary or secondary queens and the king, are mostly workers and soldiers of both genders, the research shows.

The research is published in the March 27 edition of the journal Science.

Dr. Ed Vargo, associate professor of entomology at NC State and a co-author of the paper, says that the species of subterranean termite studied, Reticulitermes speratus, is an important economic pest in Japan and is in the same genus as termites found in North Carolina.

Termite colonies are generally founded and then sustained by a primary king and primary queen. In the study, the scientists collected termites from a number of different colonies in Japan. In many colonies, the primary queen was not present, but had been seemingly succeeded by numerous secondary queens. Most primary kings, meanwhile, were present in the colonies. This suggests, Vargo says, that the primary kings live longer than the primary queens, so there is a strong need for these termites to have genetically diverse queen successors to grow the colonies efficiently.

Vargo’s genetic analysis of termite populations in several colonies showed that secondary queens shared genes with primary queens but not with primary kings, suggesting asexual reproduction. At the same time, male and female termite workers and soldiers had genetic traces of both the primary king and primary queen, suggesting sexual reproduction.

“The conditional use of sex is unusual in insects and was previously unknown in termites. This novel use of both sexual and asexual reproduction is a way for primary queens to maximize reproductive output allowing the colony to grow bigger and faster while maintaining genetic diversity and avoiding the disadvantages of inbreeding,” Vargo says.

Vargo plans to continue this research by looking for other species of female termites with dual mating systems. He adds that learning more about the genetics behind reproduction could lead to ways of preventing the production of certain castes of termites – like the primary queens that reproduce in two ways – or ways of knocking out certain gene functions in those castes.

- kulikowski -

“Queen Succession Through Asexual Reproduction in Termites”
Authors: Kenji Matasuura, Hiroko Nakano and Toshihisa Yashiro, Okayama University; Edward L. Vargo and Paul E. Labadie, North Carolina State University; Kazutaka Kawatsu, Kyoto University; Kazuki Tsuji, University of the Ryukyus

Published: March 26, 2009, in Science

Mick Kulikowski | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>