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Termites explode to defend colonies

Posted on Saturday, 28 July, 2012 | Comment icon 16 comments

Image credit: CC 3.0 Discott

Termites in the rainforests of French Guiana literally blow themselves up to help defend their peers.

Older worker termites grow a sack containing a blue toxic liquid which they will then explode on to encroaching enemies. This aspect of the insects' life cycle means that when a worker is too old to be effective they still perform a valuable final duty in the protection of their colony.

"Older individuals are not as effective at foraging and nest maintenance as younger workers," said study leader Robert Hanus. "It makes perfect sense to me because theories predict that social insects should perform low-risk, laborious tasks such as housekeeping in the first part of their life and risky tasks such as defence as they age."

"A species of termite found in the rainforests of French Guiana takes altruism seriously: aged workers grow sacks of toxic blue liquid that they explode onto their enemies in an act of suicidal self-sacrifice to help their colonies."

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #7 Posted by The Mule on 28 July, 2012, 17:16
If only the French politicians did the same thing why stop with just the French?
Comment icon #8 Posted by Paracelse on 28 July, 2012, 17:18
why stop with just the French? They got dibs they are French termites
Comment icon #9 Posted by The Mule on 28 July, 2012, 17:20
They got dibs they are French termites oh! busting me not reading the article!!
Comment icon #10 Posted by Paracelse on 28 July, 2012, 17:27
oh! busting me not reading the article!! It's only the tenth word
Comment icon #11 Posted by CarboniteML8 on 28 July, 2012, 23:35
Stop exploding you cowards!
Comment icon #12 Posted by csspwns on 29 July, 2012, 2:06
lol and if this were the same with would be a utopia! all the worthless and aging people blow up and leave only the productive people alive. wait a min...i happen to be in the worthless catergory...NEVERMIND I GUESS!!
Comment icon #13 Posted by Paracelse on 29 July, 2012, 6:01
lol and if this were the same with would be a utopia! all the worthless and aging people blow up and leave only the productive people alive. wait a min...i happen to be in the worthless catergory...NEVERMIND I GUESS!! Another big difference between human and termites would be young human are generally uselless and old ones more productives :whistle:
Comment icon #14 Posted by Rolci on 29 July, 2012, 9:19
so how do they know they have this blue liquid inside them, and how do they know it's poisonous. Especially the first time this liquid appeared in one member of the species at one time during their evolution - how did that member know what to do with it? Before they figured this out, didn't the liquid kill the ants themselves first? Was this seen in advance as an evolutionary advantage before it was proven as such so it wouldn't be dropped?
Comment icon #15 Posted by megshea89 on 29 July, 2012, 16:29
this is pretty awesome tho I had to say for some reason I expected like a little bomber lol and not showering the enemy in excrement but I guess to each his own right? lol
Comment icon #16 Posted by notoverrated on 6 August, 2012, 18:02
man i was hopong for a video all i ever get on this topic is a animation of what it would look like .

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