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Keywords:

  • caste differentiation;
  • intracolony conflict;
  • sex ratio;
  • supplementary reproductive

Abstract

Plasticity in the caste developmental pathway is a remarkable characteristic of termite societies. In Reticulitermes, two types of neotenic reproductive, nymphoids and ergatoids, may differentiate from nymphs and workers and take over reproduction in the colony after the death of the original primary reproductive pair. We examined the dynamics of newly differentiated nymphoids and ergatoids in experimentally orphaned laboratory colonies of R. speratus with different caste compositions. The period required for differentiation of nymphoids was shorter than that for differentiation of ergatoids. The sex ratio of neotenics was strongly female-biased, particularly in ergatoids. The results suggested that the number of differentiated ergatoids was restricted by the existence of nymphs or nymphoids in a colony. Workers were assumed to kill most newly differentiated neotenics. Attack reflecting conflict between colony members is probably an important mechanism to control neotenic emergence.