Large Termites Pick On Smaller Termites
For most of you, the early days of school were frightening. Ultimately you may look back fondly on your carefree days as an elementary school student. But when you started out in kindergarten, it was rough sharing a school with other kids much older and larger than you. Everybody has experienced bullying at some point in life. Luckily, you were not always the small and scared kindergartner. You grew larger, became less intimidated, and made great friends as you progressed through grade school. However, the insect world is far more harsh, as some insects are constantly living in fear of their larger insect cousins. For example, certain drywood termites live in constant fear of much larger termites. This is due to the fact that different termite species of varying sizes often dwell within the same environments. In order for these drywood termites to avoid encounters with their much larger termite cousins, they have to always be sensing the menacing chewing vibrations produced by larger termites.
A type of drywood termite known as the Cryptotermes secundus lives in fear of the much larger Coptotermes acinaciformis species of termite. These two termites share the same habitat, so the relatively small Cryptotermes termites are always on edge. The Cryptotermes termites spend a lot of their time escaping from the Coptotermes termites. You would think that a dominant insect would destroy all other insects that dwell within its habitat. But this is not the case; instead, the weaker insects develop methods of survival.
The large Coptotermes and the smaller Cryptotermes termites cohabit the same trees and manmade structures. Researchers hypothesized that the Cryptotermes termites evade the Coptotermes termites by sensing certain vibrations. In order to test this hypothesis, researchers recorded Coptotermes vibrations and replayed them for Cryptotermes termites. Sure enough, the Cryptotermes termites would begin digging frantically into nearby wood in order to hide. It turns out that the Cryptotermes termites are able to sense the chewing vibrations produced by Coptotermes termites. This heightened sense has allowed Cryptotermes termites to survive within the same habitat as Coptotermes termites. This is in spite of the Cryptotermes termite’s smaller body size and their much smaller colony sizes. Studying termite vibrations may lead to products that prevent termites from approaching houses or buildings.
Do you think that termites would be able to learn the difference between mechanically produced vibrations and the vibrations produced by their own kind?