[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Social insects possess a rich set of exocrine organs producing diverse pheromones and defensive compounds. This is especially true for termite imagoes, which are equipped with several glands producing, among others, sex pheromones and defensive compounds protecting imagoes during the dispersal flight and colony foundation. Here, we describe the clypeal gland, a new termite exocrine organ occurring in the labro-clypeal region of imagoes of most Rhinotermitidae, Serritermitidae and Termitidae species. The clypeal gland of Coptotermes testaceus consists of class 1 (modified epidermal cell) and class 3 (bicellular gland unit) secretory cells. Ultrastructural features suggest that the gland secretes volatile compounds and proteins, probably after starting the reproduction. One peculiar feature of the gland is the presence of multiple secretory canals in a single canal cell, a feature never observed before in other insect glands. Although the function of the gland remains unknown, we hypothesize that it could produce secretion signalling the presence of functional reproductives or their need to be fed.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Protection against predators and competitors is one of the main concerns of termite colonies, which developed a specialized defensive caste, the soldiers. However, soldiers are rare or even missing in several lineages of termites, while workers often develop new defence strategies especially in soil-feeding species. Here, we describe the morphology and ultrastructure of the autothysis-associated glands of Neocapritermes taracua workers and report their age-related changes in structure. The defensive glands of N. taracua workers consist of a pair of labial and a pair of crystal glands, whose secretions mix together through autothysis. Autothysis always occurs at the line of weakness connecting the anterior parts of the crystal-bearing pouches. The crystal glands consist of groups of bicellular secretory units (secretory and corresponding canal cells) which secrete the blue crystal material into external pouches. Their secretory activity is maximal in the middle of worker life, and is considerably lower in very young and old workers. The labial glands are composed of two types of secretory cells: the central and the parietal cells. While the central cells are developed similarly to other termites and secrete proteinaceous secretion into labial gland ducts, the parietal cells develop proteinaceous granules which may eventually bud off the cells. The secretory function of parietal cells is so far unique to N. taracua and differs from other termite species in which they are only responsible of water uptake by acini. The defensive device of N. taracua is truly exceptional as it involves a new gland and a previously undescribed function for parietal cells, being a remarkable example of evolution of morphological innovation.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The frontal gland is a unique adaptation of advanced termite families. It has been intensively studied in soldiers with respect to its anatomy and chemistry, with numerous novel compounds being discovered within the tremendous richness of identified products. At the same time, the presence of the frontal gland in non-soldier castes received only negligible attention in the past.
Here, we report on the development of the frontal gland in alate imagoes of 10 genera and 13 species of Rhinotermitidae and Serritermitidae, in order to shed light on the evolution and function of this gland in imagoes. All investigated species possess a frontal gland. In most cases, it is well-developed and equipped with a sac-like reservoir, located in the postero-dorsal part of cranium, but reaching as far as the seventh abdominal segment in some Rhinotermitinae. The only exception is the genus Psammotermes, in which the gland is very small and devoid of the reservoir.
Our direct observations and comparisons with soldiers suggest a defensive role of the gland in imagoes of all studied species. This functional analogy, along with the anatomic homology between the frontal gland in soldiers and imagoes, make it likely that the gland appeared once during the early evolution of rhinotermitid ancestors, and remained as a defensive organ of prime importance in both, soldiers and imagoes.
PLoS ONE 12/2010; 5(12):e15761. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0015761 · 3.23 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In termites, juvenile hormone plays a key role in soldier differentiation. To better understand the evolutionary origin of the soldiers, we studied the external and inner morphology of pseudergate-soldier intercastes and neotenic-soldier intercastes formed artificially by the application of juvenile hormone analogue in Prorhinotermes simplex. A majority of these intercastes had a soldier phenotype, whereas the inner anatomy had an intermediary form between two castes or a form specific to intercastes. Our experiments showed that traits of neotenics and soldiers can be shared by the same individuals, although such individuals do not exist naturally in P. simplex, and they have not been reported in other species but in some Termopsidae. Our results reinforce the hypothesis that soldiers may have emerged from soldier neotenics during the evolution of termites.