Resource availability influences aggression and response to chemical cues in the Neotropical termite Nasutitermes aff. coxipoensis (Termitidae: Nasutitermitinae)

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Abstract

Abstract: Behavioural responses of organisms are frequently affected by variation in resource availability. For eusocial insects, the nutritional status of the colony can modulate responses to chemical cues determining intra- and inter-colonial aggressiveness. Species co-occurrence in termites seems to be modulated by resource availability. Here, we tested the effects of resource availability on acceptance of chemical cues and aggressive behaviour in the Neotropical termite Nasutitermes aff. coxipoensis (Termitidae: Nasutitermitinae). Nasutitermes aff. coxipoensis nests were transplanted into three plots in which resource availability was manipulated over 4 months. Experiments were carried out to evaluate: (i) colony response to internal chemical cues and those of neighbouring colonies reared under the same resource levels; (ii) the choice among chemical paths of colonies reared at different resource levels; and (iii) inter-colony aggression to nestmates and to neighbouring colonies reared under the same resource levels. Our results suggest that resource availability affects acceptance of chemical cues, path choice and aggression in N. aff. coxipoensis. Resource availability may thus modulate behavioural responses influencing coexistence between termite species and other taxa at different spatial scales. Significance statement: Environmental resource availability is known to limit a range of traits in animals and plants. Here, we report that resource availability is also responsible for changes in behavioural responses of termites. The behavioural modifications found in the present study contribute to our comprehension of ecological patterns in this important ecological group. This work increases our understanding of mechanisms of co-occurrence and coexistence of termite species, as well as patterns of termite species richness in distinct biomes.

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Cristaldo, P. F., Araújo, A. P. A., Almeida, C. S., Cruz, N. G., Ribeiro, E. J. M., Rocha, M. L. C., … Florencio, D. F. (2016). Resource availability influences aggression and response to chemical cues in the Neotropical termite Nasutitermes aff. coxipoensis (Termitidae: Nasutitermitinae). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 70(8), 1257–1265. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-016-2134-y

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