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  Differential construction response to humidity by related species of mound-building termites

Carey, N. E., Calovi, D. S., Bardunias, P., Turner, J. S., Nagpal, R., & Werfel, J. (2019). Differential construction response to humidity by related species of mound-building termites. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 222(20): jeb212274. doi:10.1242/jeb.212274.

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Carey, N. E., Author
Calovi, Daniel S.1, Author              
Bardunias, P., Author
Turner, J. S., Author
Nagpal, R., Author
Werfel, J., Author
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1Harvard University, ou_persistent22              

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 Abstract: Macrotermes michaelseni and M. natalensis are two morphologically similar termite species occupying the same habitat across southern Africa. Both build large mounds and tend mutualistic fungal symbionts for nutrients, but despite these behavioural and physiological similarities, the mound superstructures they create differ markedly. The behavioural differences behind this discrepancy remain elusive, and are the subject of ongoing investigations. Here, we show that the two species demonstrate distinctive building activity in a laboratory-controlled environment consisting of still air with low ambient humidity. In these conditions, M. michaelseni transports less soil from a central reservoir, deposits this soil over a smaller area, and creates structures with a smaller volumetric envelope than M. natalensis. In high humidity, no such systematic difference is observed. This result suggests a differential behavioural threshold or sensitivity to airborne moisture that may relate to the distinct macro-scale structures observed in the African bushland.

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 Dates: 2019-10-21
 Publication Status: Published in print
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 Rev. Type: -
 Identifiers: Other: WOS:000493796100020
DOI: 10.1242/jeb.212274
ISSN: 0022-0949
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Title: The Journal of Experimental Biology
Source Genre: Journal
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Publ. Info: London : Published for the Company of Biologists Ltd. by the Cambridge University Press
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 222 (20) Sequence Number: jeb212274 Start / End Page: - Identifier: ISSN: 0022-0949
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/110992357319088_1