Google+

They’re Packing, Older Workers Vanquish Foes In Toxic, Self-Sacrificial Burst

The likelihood of a worker exploding in a burst of toxins increases with age, at least in a species of tropical termite.

Sudden, toxic self-rupture is a mutually destructive move in fights with enemies of the South American termites Neocapritermes taracua, reports ethologist Robert Hanus of the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium. Biologists have described some other termite species with an explosively self-sacrificing caste. But the N. taracuaworkers blow up in a way researchers have never seen before, Hanus and an international team report in the July 27 Science.

An exploding termite’s body suddenly bulges, ripping open two pouches riding like packs on its back. Their contents, blue nuggets of a copper-containing protein, mix with a product of termite salivary glands that’s released as the inner flesh splits open. The combination turns into a toxin that can quickly immobilize and kill an attacker. “It’s a question of minutes, sometimes seconds,” Hanus says.

Workers don’t start out with dangerous backpacks but develop a pair of blue spots that grow as the termites get older and build up their protein reserves. Younger workers that are spotless, or minimally spotted, do rupture, Hanus says, but it isn’t as effective in killing enemies. And it takes a lot more provocation than it does for the older nestmates.

The likelier sacrifice of the older workers makes sense in the save-the-queen, save-the-colony world of termites, the researchers note. Individual workers can’t reproduce. Their value to the colony is in their foraging and other chores.

Their mouthparts gradually go dull with wear and tear, and their efficiency at feeding decreases. The more worn the mouthparts, the bigger the reserve of the toxin ingredient, Hanus and his colleagues found. So as their other contributions to the colony dwindle, older workers’ likelihood for self-sacrifice in battle increases.

“In contrast, humans are sending the young men to war,” Hanus says. From the termite perspective, “old men should go to war, or old women.”

These termites do have a soldier caste, but its members aren’t numerous enough for all emergencies, Hanus says. The soldiers have such specialized mouthparts that they can’t eat on their own. Workers have to feed them, a limitation on the proportion of soldiers in the colony.

This new study “falls into the ‘amazing natural history’ category, in which social insects have many examples,” says entomologist Francis Ratnieks of the University of Sussex in England. The exploding termites’ suicidal attack is akin to one so familiar that people may forget how self-sacrificing it is: the honeybee sting.

Source: Science News / Susan Milius / Photo Credit: courtesy of Robert Hanus

Entertainment

Oscar Predictions 2017

  Oscar Predictions 2017 Your Guide to the Academy Awards by Kam Williams   Will La La Land make history by eclipsing the record of 11 Academy Awards? Damien Chazelle's magical homage to the Hollywood musical definitely has a decent shot. After all, it's a lock to win in 5 categories: Best Picture, Director, Score, Original Song, and Sound Mixing. And it 's the heavy favorite in another 5: Lead Actress, Cinematography, Costume Design, … [Read More its Good for You.....]

Books

The President’s Kitchen Cabinet

  The President's Kitchen Cabinet The Story of the African-Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas by Adrian Miller University of North Carolina Press Hardcover, $30.00 292 pages, Illustrated ISBN: 978-1-4696-3253-7 Book Review by Kam Williams “[This opus] vividly tells the stories of the African-Americans who worked in the presidential food service as chefs, personal cooks, butlers, stewards … [Read More its Good for You...]

Art

The Day After the Day Of

  The Day After the Day Of by Paul Ilechko   The sky sheds its tears. This morning is the morning of the day after. The day of mourning, the day after the day of.  I beseech the sky to shed tears in order to wash away the tears on my face.   This is the first day of the time after. This is the beginning of a new time, the days of pain, the days of sorrow. We are in mourning. The sky looks down and sheds its tears for … [Read More its Good For You...]

Real Estate

History Being Sold to the Highest Bidder

  History Being Sold to the Highest Bidder by Amy Lignor   For the longest time, scientists and archaeologists have been confused and bemused by various discoveries they’ve unearthed that offer little or no explanation as to the who, what, and why of the people who created these things or left them behind. Even now, in 2017, there are discoveries being studied; stories that were once legends now have actual bits of proof being found that … [Read More its Good for You.....]

Lifestyle

Trump and Traditions of the Founders

  Trump and Traditions of the Founders By Ezrah Aharone Maybe I should watch more CNN or MSNBC to be convinced since most Black people seemingly regard Donald Trump as some sort of abrupt political mutation who violates America’s traditions. What I see in Trump is “America’s traditional reflection in the mirror.” I see the exact same hardline and hostile government that the founders deliberately engineered with deep political and racial … [Read More its Good for You...]

Outdoors

The Perfect Roasted Duck

  The Perfect Roasted Duck by Amy Lignor   The hunt, itself, is a memory that lasts a good long time. But for those who do not wish to head to the taxidermist, a recipe to create a mouth-watering meal is another path to consider. Some will say that a perfect, whole roasted duck is more like a creative idea than an actual fact. Yes, it is true that a combination of crispy skin, tender meat and just enough fat to make a perfect … [Read More its Good for You...]

Sports

Looking Forward to the NFL’s “Top” Free Agents

  Looking Forward to the NFL’s “Top” Free Agents by Amy Lignor   Now that the Patriots have (once again) walked away with the Super Bowl title, it is time that the NFL teams focus on the draft and what free agents they need to most definitely keep on their roster. The Pittsburgh Steelers always seem to be on all the “experts” lists to make it to the end and finally get back to the Super Bowl’s main stage. Unfortunately, the Steelers can’t … [Read More its Good for You...]

Business

Business Industries to Explore in 2017

  Business Industries to Explore in 2017 by Amy Lignor   It’s no surprise that with the popular TV show “Shark Tank” taking over the headlines, promoting small businesses and giving people the chance to ‘make it big,’ that the industry researchers have gotten together a list of the very best opportunities when it comes to starting up companies in 2017. The profits are there, in some categories, just waiting to be made, and most do … [Read More its Good for You...]

Travel

It’s Time to Save for Summer Vacation!

  It’s Time to Save for Summer Vacation! by Amy Lignor   Putting the “pennies in the piggy bank” is something everyone in this world does (or wants to do) on a daily basis. But NOW is the time to take those “extra” pennies and purchase that great piggy bank that’s perhaps wearing some sunglasses, a colorful hat, some swim trunks…anything that makes that new piggy remind you of the one thing you want to do all year long – go on the … [Read More its Good for You...]

Green Living

Creating the Perfect Vegetable Garden

  Creating the Perfect Vegetable Garden by Amy Lignor   Many are still dealing with that wintery mix Mother Nature just loves to toss down from the sky this time of year. Yet, that gardener living inside the soul – the one just dreaming of the sunny skies and lazy rainy days that are must-haves in order to grow the best vegetables possible – is already jotting down the facts, tricks and tips they need to know in order to make that … [Read More its Good for You...]