Scientists discover 'suicide bomber' termites
Fri, 27 Jul 2012 11:23a.m.
By 3 News online staff
Researchers have discovered a species of termite which employs suicide bombers in battle.
Like other species, Neocapritermes taracua has soldier termites which defend the colony from attack, and workers which can rush to their aid if they look like using.
But unlike other termites, these workers are able to explode themselves, covering the enemy in a toxic chemical which corrodes their bodies.
As workers age they become less useful around the hive, but begin growing a sac of blue crystals. These crystals are harmless on their own, but when combined with secretions stored in the termite's salivary gland synthesise into a toxic compound which is then splattered across the enemy when the termite's body ruptures.
It's believed the tactic evolved as a way to keep older workers useful.
"When they get older their mandibles also wear down, so they are probably less efficient for feeding, but they develop the crystals for defence,” says evolutionary biologist Dr Yves Roison.
"There are some five or six species in the genus, but it's the only species [that carries a backpack] we've seen so far. It's quite strange."
The species is only found in French Guiana.
“We are also trying now to understand how this behavior evolved within this termite species, because there are other related species that don’t explode," says Dr Roison.
The research was published in peer-reviewed journal Science.
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28/07/2012 4:10:17 p.m.
According to this scientist, termites are far more advanced in bio-genetic engineering and general science than human kind. And yet he still had the gaul to open his mouth and publicise his opinion.
27/07/2012 8:19:58 p.m.
It won't be long until humans are able to do this.
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