New publication: White-gutted soldiers: simplification of the digestive tube for a non-particulate diet in higher Old World termites (Isoptera:Termitidae)

by Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, (...), Raquel Adriana Hernandez-Aguilar et al. in Insectes Sociaux. The article is open access.


Previous observations have noted that in some species of higher termites the soldier caste lacks pigmented particles in its gut and, instead, is fed worker saliva that imparts a whitish coloration to the abdomen. In order to investigate the occurrence of this trait more thoroughly, we surveyed a broad diversity of termite specimens and taxonomic descriptions from the Old World subfamilies Apicotermitinae, Cubitermitinae, Foraminitermitinae, Macrotermitinae, and Termitinae. We identified 38 genera that have this “white-gutted” soldier (WGS) trait. No termite soldiers from the New World were found to possess a WGS caste. Externally, the WGS is characterized by a uniformly pale abdomen, hyaline gut, and proportionally smaller body-to-head volume ratio compared with their “dark-gutted” soldier (DGS) counterparts found in most termitid genera. The WGS is a fully formed soldier that, unlike soldiers in other higher termite taxa, has a small, narrow, and decompartmentalized digestive tube that lacks particulate food contents. The presumed saliva-nourished WGS have various forms of simplified gut morphologies that have evolved at least six times within the higher termites.


Published online 12 July 2017

Insectes Sociaux

DOI:10.1007 s00040-017-0572-9.

Link to article


*Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, UiO.

See the publication webpage for full author information.

Published Oct. 12, 2017 3:13 PM - Last modified Oct. 12, 2017 3:15 PM