Information gathering and communication behaviour has evolved within constraints of size, physiology and ecology of the animal. Due to these constraints, small herbivorous insects are likely to use substrate borne vibrations for information gathering and communication. Although such signals have been characterised in many types of insects, including group-living insects, they are poorly known in termites. We showed that the Australian drywood termite Cryptotermes secundus could determine the size of wooden blocks by using the vibrations generated during foraging. The termites behaved differently in choice experiments when artificially generated vibration signals were played compared with natural recordings, indicating that these termites can discriminate the source of the vibration as well. A T-maze experiment showed that the termites were attracted to the natural recordings of feeding termites, suggesting that vibrations are important in communication during foraging as well as food resource assessment. Combining the effects of food size preference and attraction to other termites explained differences in behaviour between artificially generated vibration signals compared with natural recordings. This study demonstrates that termites use substrate borne vibrations for information gathering and communication as predicted.
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