Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Panamanian Termite Goes Ballistic: Fastest Mandible Strike In The World

Date:
November 29, 2008
Source:
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Summary:
A single hit on the head by the termite Termes panamensis (Snyder), which possesses the fastest mandible strike ever recorded, is sufficient to kill a would-be nest invader.

Marc Seid, postdoctoral fellow in the new neurobiology laboratory at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.
Credit: Marcos Guerra, STRI

A single hit on the head by the termite Termes panamensis (Snyder), which possesses the fastest mandible strike ever recorded, is sufficient to kill a would-be nest invader, report Marc Seid and Jeremy Niven, post-doctoral fellows at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Rudolf Scheffrahn from the University of Florida.

Niven and Seid conducted the study at the Smithsonian's new neurobiology laboratory in Panama, established by a donation from the Frank Levinson Family Foundation. The laboratory was built to use Panama's abundant insect biodiversity to understand the evolution of brain miniaturization.

"Ultimately, we're interested in the evolution of termite soldiers' brains and how they employ different types of defensive weaponry," says Seid. Footage of the soldier termite's jaws as they strike an invader at almost 70 meters per second was captured on a high speed video camera in the laboratory at 40,000 frames per second. "Many insects move much faster than a human eye can see so we knew that we needed high speed cameras to capture their behavior, but we weren't expecting anything this fast. If you don't know about the behavior, you can't hope to understand the brain," Seid adds.

Why are the termites so fast? When insects become small they have difficulty generating forces that inflict damage. "To create a large impact force with a light object you need to reach very high velocities before impact," Niven explains.

The Panamanian termite's strike is the fastest mandible strike recorded, albeit over a very short distance. Because a termite soldier faces down its foe inside a narrow tunnel and has little room to parry and little time to waste, this death blow proves to be incredibly efficient.

The force for the blow is stored by deforming the jaws, which are held pressed against one another until the strike is triggered. This strategy of storing up energy from the muscles to produce fast movements is employed by locusts, trap-jaw ants and froghoppers. "The termites need to store energy to generate enough destructive force. They appear to store the energy in their mandibles but we still don't know how they do this—that's the next question," says Niven.

A full report of the study appears in the Nov. 25, 2008 issue of the journal Current Biology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "Panamanian Termite Goes Ballistic: Fastest Mandible Strike In The World." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081124165259.htm>.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. (2008, November 29). Panamanian Termite Goes Ballistic: Fastest Mandible Strike In The World. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081124165259.htm
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "Panamanian Termite Goes Ballistic: Fastest Mandible Strike In The World." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081124165259.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Since the arrival of Ebola in Ivory Coast, Ivorians have been abandoning their pets, particularly monkeys, in the fear that they may transmit the virus. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins