Discovery that termites use vibrations to choose the wood they eat may provide opportunities to new methods of reducing infestations in homes and also may provide insights into the "cocktail party effect" of signal processing - how to ignore most noise but have some signals that trigger attention - that may prove useful in artificial intelligence.
CSIRO entomologist Theo Evans says laboratory experiments have found that termites use their ability to detect vibrations to determine which food source is most suitable. The termites can also detect how the vibrations are made. This ability could be likened to a form of sonar.
Dr Evans says different termite species are known to prefer eating particular sizes of wood; certain drywood termites prefer small blocks, presumably to avoid competition. With Professor Joseph Lai and his students from the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force, Dr Evans investigated how the blind insects measured pieces of wood.
Geraldine Capp | CSIRO - News
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