Chemical and vibratory signals used in alarm communication in the termite Reticulitermes flavipes (Rhinotermitidae)
Termites have evolved diverse defence strategies to protect themselves against predators, including a complex alarm communication system based on vibroacoustic and/or chemical signals. In reaction to alarm signals, workers and other vulnerable castes flee away while soldiers, the specialized colony defenders, actively move toward the alarm source. In this study, we investigated the nature of alarm communication in the pest Reticulitermes flavipes. We found that workers and soldiers of R. flavipes respond to various danger stimuli using both vibroacoustic and chemical alarm signals. Among the danger stimuli, the blow of air triggered the strongest response, followed by crushed soldier head and light flash. The crushed soldier heads, which implied the alarm pheromone release, had the longest-lasting effect on the group behaviour, while the responses to other stimuli decreased quickly. We also found evidence of a positive feedback, as the release of alarm pheromones increased the vibratory communication among workers and soldiers. Our study demonstrates that alarm modalities are differentially expressed between castes, and that the response varies according to the nature of stimuli.
KeywordsCommunication Defence Pheromones Positive feedback Vibratory behaviour
This work was supported by the project IGA A30/17 of the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sciences, Czech University of Life Sciences, by the project CIGA 20184303 of the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, and by the BQR 2014/2015 from the University Paris 13-SPC.
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