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Identification of multi-component trail pheromones in the most evolutionarily derived termites, the Nasutitermitinae (Termitidae)




In the present study, trail pheromone blends are identified for the first time in termites. In the phylogenetically complex Nasutitermitinae, trail-following pheromones are composed of dodecatrienol and neocembrene, the proportions of which vary according to species, although neocembrene is always more abundant than dodecatrienol (by 25–250-fold). Depending on species, termites were more sensitive to dodecatrienol or to neocembrene but the association of both components always elicited significantly higher trail following, with a clear synergistic effect in most of the studied species. A third component, trinervitatriene, was identified in the sternal gland secretion of several species, but its function remains unknown. The secretion of trail pheromone blends appears to be an important step in the evolution of chemical communication in termites. The pheromone optimizes foraging, and promotes their ecological success. © 2010 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2010, 99, 20–27.