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La Sociotomie: Migration Et Fragmentation De La Termitière Chez Les Anoplotermes Et Les Trinervitermes

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image of Behaviour

Under the term of sociotomy, (or fission of the society) we describe a curious social behaviour of two African Termites: Anoplotermes sp. and Trinervitermes bettonianus. Crowded columns, one including the royal couple, emerge in broad daylight and crawl away to various distances. They represent only a small part of the society to which they belong. After having covered a greater or lesser distance, each column breaks into several portions, each of which remains alone, scoops out (Anoplotermes) or builds (Trinervitermes) a nest which becomes the foundation of a new society. Substitution reproductives are obtained by means of neoteny which is very frequent in the two species in which sociotomy has been observed. All the castes are represented in the migration, including the functional reproductives and the winged individuals. The most important fact is the profound, if not complete modification of the usual normal behaviour during the phenomenon of sociotomy. For instance, the King and Queen, giving up their close confinement, emerge on the surface of the ground, remain in the open air and in the light, and cover comparatively long distances. The winged individuals, which normally only issue from the nest to undertake their swarming flight have their genetic behaviour abolished and can be seen creeping on the surface of the ground carrying larvae. The Anoplotermes workers can even acquire the behaviour of soldiers. Most peculiar behaviour is displayed on the occasion of the phenomenon of sociotomy: in particular the carrying of eggs, of brood, of wounded individuals and corpses. Various observations concerning the behaviour of soldiers and workers towards ants during the migration are related in this report. For the first time, the usefulness of the "nasuti" in defending the nest is firmly established, and so is the importance of the organization of the group in the defence against the assailants. Finally, the essential influence of the group upon individual behaviour is brought to light, for instance in its inhibitory action upon the sexual "instinct" of the winged individuals.

Affiliations: 1: Laboratoire d'Evolution des Etres organisés, Faculté des Sciences, Paris


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