Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Termites feed through good vibrations

23.02.2005


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.


They recorded the vibrations of worker drywood termites as they fed on large and small wood blocks. Dr Evans then broadcast the recorded vibrations made by termites from the large blocks into small blocks and found that the termites switched their preference to the large blocks. Prof Lai created an artificial signal similar to that made by the termites chewing the large block, which Dr Evans broadcast into small blocks and the scientists found that the termites had no preference for either large or small blocks. Broadcasting static into small blocks did not affect termite choice, showing that the termites were not interested in random noise.

These results show two responses by the termites: one to block size and a second to signal source. The artificial signal mimicked the characteristic frequency of the wooden block, so the termites were tricked into believing that a small block with the artificial signal was the same size as a large block; thus no preference was observed. However, the signal from the termites feeding on large blocks had this characteristic frequency plus other signals indicating the presence of other termites in that "large block", so they chose to feed on the large block without termites. Thus the termites showed that they have the "cocktail party effect".

This social information had another important effect: limiting reproduction potential. Most termite workers are sterile; they don’t breed. However, in drywood termites, workers can become fertile and develop into breeders when they are isolated from their colony. Few workers developed into breeders in the experiments when they were broadcast the termite sourced signals, whereas many workers developed into breeders when artificial signals were broadcast, or when no signals were broadcast.

Scientists are hoping to find ways to interfere with the termites’ ability to select wood in order to reduce the economic impact of termite damage. "There is a common perception that termites are voracious and indiscriminate eaters, consuming all the wood that they find", Dr Evans says. "But the reality is that termites are selective feeders and choose their food very carefully. The palatability of the wood species and hardness is important as are defensive chemicals made by the plant. But our work shows that this is not the only method of assessment. There are many accounts of termites not consuming a piece of palatable wood."

Listen to termites walking and chewing pine http://www.csiro.au/audio/termite_Feb05.mp3 [mp3 file, 1 Mb, 59 sec]

Termite pictures:

http://www.scienceimage.csiro.au/index.cfm?event=site.image.detail&id=2583

http://www.scienceimage.csiro.au/index.cfm?event=site.image.detail&id=2584

Further Information:

Dr Theo Evans, CSIRO Entomology, Termite Group 02 6246 4195

Professor Joseph Lai 02 6268 8272

Media Assistance:

Julie Carter, CSIRO Entomology 02 6246 4040 or 0439 033 011

Geraldine Capp | CSIRO - News
Further information:
http://www.csiro.au

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Algae: The final frontier
22.06.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science

nachricht Flipping the switch to stop tumor development
22.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

Im Focus: Optoelectronic Inline Measurement – Accurate to the Nanometer

Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.

New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Hubble captures massive dead disk galaxy that challenges theories of galaxy evolution

22.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New femto-camera with quadrillion fractions of a second resolution

22.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Rice U. chemists create 3-D printed graphene foam

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>