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Press Release 09-186

Homebound Termites Answer 150-Year-Old Evolution Question

Evolution of sterility potentially explained among social insects

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Metaphorical termite-like chess set showing succession to royalty by a pawn-termite of worker caste.

When two clans of termites wage battle, scientists have shown that succession to royalty is achieved by offspring that have stayed home as helpers. This metaphorical chessboard situation shows the dark Queen termite deposed, and the King in grave danger of check mate. At the same time, the white team's pawn of the eyeless worker caste ascends to royal (reproductive) status with crown hovering overhead. Menacing soldier "rooks" patrol the sidelines.

Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation


Download the high-resolution JPG version of the image. (406 KB)

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Close up photo of termites and the words Audio Slideshow

Get up close and personal with a termite colony in this audio slideshow.

Credit: Lisa Raffensperger, National Science Foundation