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Nasute Termites

By melvynyeo
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Soldier Nasute termites. Taken at night in Singapore.

Quote from
The soldier caste has anatomical and behavioural specializations, providing strength and armour which are primarily useful against ant attack. The proportion of soldiers within a colony varies both within and among species. Many soldiers have jaws so enlarged, they cannot feed themselves, but instead, like juveniles, are fed by workers. Simple holes in the forehead, fontanelles, exuding defensive secretions are a feature of the family Rhinotermitidae. Many species are readily identified using the characteristics of the soldiers' heads, mandibles, or nasi. Among the drywood termites, a soldier's globular (phragmotic) head can be used to block their narrow tunnels. Termite soldiers are usually blind, but in some families, particularly among the dampwood termites, soldiers developing from the reproductive line may have at least partly functional eyes.

The specialization of the soldier caste is principally a defence against predation by ants. Ants represent the single biggest threat to termite mounds and nests. Soldier Termite species armed with enlarged heads and powerful jaws can provide only limited defense and delay to a determined ant attack. Ants are more agile, often have functioning eyesight, and attack in an orchestrated and cooperative manner, for example Megaponera analis has a very sophisticated and successful raiding behaviour against termites. Termite soldiers are not evolved in this way, and defend the mound individually against multiple attacking ants resulting in an obvious and observable disadvantage. Ant species, such as the Formica, can deliver paralyzing stings in addition to their own powerful mandibles. Though powerful and formidable many species of termite soldiers can provide only a suicidal delay to an ant invasion,but one that observably results in preservation of the mound by industrious workers who react quickly to close off tunnels vital to access the deep interior of the mound. The wide range of jaw types and phragmotic heads provides methods that effectively block narrow termite tunnels against ant entry.

A tunnel-blocking soldier can rebuff attacks from many ants. Usually more soldiers stand by behind the initial soldier so once the first one falls another soldier will take the place. In cases where the intrusion is coming from a breach that is larger than the soldier's head, defence requires special formations where soldiers form a phalanx-like formation around the breach and bite at intruders or exude toxins from the nasus or fontanelle. This formation involves self-sacrifice because once the workers have repaired the breach during fighting, no return is provided, thus leading to the death of all defenders. Another form of self-sacrifice is performed by Southeast Asian tar baby termites (Globitermes sulphureus). The soldiers of this species commit suicide by autothysis—rupturing a large gland just beneath the surface of their cuticles. The thick, yellow fluid in the gland becomes very sticky on contact with the air, entangling ants or other insects which are trying to invade the nest.
Image size
1200x800px 620.25 KB
Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Shutter Speed
1/160 second
Focal Length
100 mm
ISO Speed
Date Taken
Jan 16, 2015, 11:59:49 PM
Sensor Size
© 2015 - 2021 melvynyeo
anonymous's avatar
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Cmac13's avatar
terrifyingly beautiful
TTM77's avatar
These guys make good arguments, they have a point to make.  :giggle:
Rodegas's avatar
did you razed the nest to take picture? 

ncux4o4's avatar