Nature’s Suicide Bombers

Jul 30 2012 @ 5:09pm

Recent experiments show that a certain type of termite develops a pouch on its back filled with a noxious substance that wipes out other termites – at the cost of its life. However, not all termites are suitable for self-sacrifice:

On closer inspection, the team found that the blue spotted termites' jaws weren't as sharp as those of their non-spotted counterparts, indicating that they were older. Team member Robert Hanus, also from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, thinks the insects develop their spotted toxicity once they're too old to forage for food. "To ensure that they remain of use to the colony, the older workers take on a defensive role," Hanus says. "The younger workers will do anything to avoid exploding because they know they are not very toxic so their suicide is a waste to the colony."