SEP 24, 2018 7:10 PM PDT

All-Female Termite Colonies Observed for the First Time

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

In the case of most animal species, it takes both a male and a female for reproduction to take place. But a few exceptions to this rule do indeed exist, particularly in that of the insect kingdom.

Asexual reproduction isn’t a new concept by any means; in fact, researchers have known of its existence in specific ant and honeybee species for several years. But as a new study published this week in the journal BMC Biology denotes, this very same conduct has been observed and documented in the termite species Glyptotermes nakajimai for the very first time.

Researchers say all-female termite colonies can be found all over the place in Japan.

Image Credit: Pixabay

“Termite colonies were always found to have equal numbers of males and females, and to undergo sexual reproduction,” explained study lead author Toshihisa Yashiro, a biologist with the University of Sydney. “Our paper is the first demonstration that termites can do away with males completely, and get along fine just with females."

Related: Here's how lots of ants coordinate to move larger objects

Yashiro and his colleagues witnessed the peculiar circumstances after studying 37 separate termite colonies dispersed along the remote coastal areas of Japan. Astonishingly, these colonies were teeming with females, but there wasn’t a single male specimen anywhere to be found.

Curious about their findings, the researchers compared queens from these asexual colonies to queens from mixed-sex colonies from other parts of Japan in an attempt to learn more. The results showed how queens from the asexual colonies lacked any sperm in their spermathecae and how their eggs remained unfertilized.

Comparatively, and perhaps unsurprisingly, queens from the mixed-sex colonies had plenty of sperm stored up in their spermathecae. But the team also took note of something they didn’t expect: unfertilized eggs in the mixed-sex colonies were developing on their own, indicating how evolution may have played a role in the development and abundance of all-female colonies.

“Interestingly, we observed the occasional development of unfertilized eggs in the mixed-sex populations too. This suggests the ability to produce offspring from unfertilized eggs may have originated in mixed-sex ancestors and provided a potential pathway to the evolution of all-female colonies,” Yashiro added.

“We also found that all-female colonies had a soldier caste with a more uniform head size than their mixed-sex counterparts and fewer soldiers overall. This suggests that uniform female soldiers are more efficient at defense which may have contributed to the persistence and spread of the all-female colonies.”

Related: Worker ants intelligently regulate tunnel-digging efforts to avoid jams

It’s certainly interesting that all-female termite colonies can exist, but the study doesn’t go much further than to speculate based upon preliminary findings. Perhaps follow-up studies can validate whether all-female termite colonies are indeed more organized and efficient than the mixed-sex variants.

Source: Phys.org, BMC Biology

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUL 16, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Climate Change Causes Carbon Loss in Soil & Root Problems in Plants
JUL 16, 2021
Climate Change Causes Carbon Loss in Soil & Root Problems in Plants
Concerns about runaway climate change and tipping points of no return are constant sources of fear in our warming world. ...
AUG 15, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Stunning Connection Between Bear DNA & Human Language Groups Is Revealed
AUG 15, 2021
Stunning Connection Between Bear DNA & Human Language Groups Is Revealed
Incredible findings from the wilds of coastal British Columbia have shown how closely linked animals, humans, and the en ...
AUG 30, 2021
Plants & Animals
Amphibious Whale Fossil Discovered in Egypt
AUG 30, 2021
Amphibious Whale Fossil Discovered in Egypt
The first animals that were ancestors of whales are thought to have been deer-like mammals that could walk on land about ...
SEP 07, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Dogs Can Pick Up the 'Seizure Smell', Alert Their Owners
SEP 07, 2021
Dogs Can Pick Up the 'Seizure Smell', Alert Their Owners
Dogs offer so much more than companionship and unconditional love. New research shows that for patients with epilepsy, t ...
SEP 09, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Nematode Worms Can Pass Memories On to Others
SEP 09, 2021
Nematode Worms Can Pass Memories On to Others
If an individual can warn their group about danger they might be able to overcome it. It seems that even a nematode worm ...
SEP 17, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Ancient Humans Rarely Chose Cousins as Mates
SEP 17, 2021
Ancient Humans Rarely Chose Cousins as Mates
Ancient families that lived together were unlikely to have mated with one another, new research has suggested. Scientist ...
Loading Comments...