Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sexual Reproduction: Birds Do It, Bees Do It; Termites Don't, Necessarily

Date:
March 28, 2009
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
Scientists have shown for the first time that it is possible for certain female termite "primary queens" to reproduce both sexually and asexually during their lifetimes. The asexually produced babies mostly grow to be queen successors -- so-called "secondary queens" -- that remain in the termite colony and mate with the king. This produces large broods of babies without the dangers of inbreeding, as secondary queens have no genes in common with the king.

Termites. Scientists have shown for the first time that it is possible for certain female termite "primary queens" to reproduce both sexually and asexually during their lifetimes.
Credit: iStockphoto

Scientists at North Carolina State University and three universities in Japan have shown for the first time that it is possible for certain female termite "primary queens" to reproduce both sexually and asexually during their lifetimes.

The asexually produced babies mostly grow to be queen successors – so-called "secondary queens" – that remain in the termite colony and mate with the king. This produces large broods of babies without the dangers of inbreeding, as secondary queens have no genes in common with the king.

Babies produced the old-fashioned way, between either the primary or secondary queens and the king, are mostly workers and soldiers of both genders, the research shows.

Dr. Ed Vargo, associate professor of entomology at NC State and a co-author of the paper, says that the species of subterranean termite studied, Reticulitermes speratus, is an important economic pest in Japan and is in the same genus as termites found in North Carolina.

Termite colonies are generally founded and then sustained by a primary king and primary queen. In the study, the scientists collected termites from a number of different colonies in Japan. In many colonies, the primary queen was not present, but had been seemingly succeeded by numerous secondary queens. Most primary kings, meanwhile, were present in the colonies. This suggests, Vargo says, that the primary kings live longer than the primary queens, so there is a strong need for these termites to have genetically diverse queen successors to grow the colonies efficiently.

Vargo's genetic analysis of termite populations in several colonies showed that secondary queens shared genes with primary queens but not with primary kings, suggesting asexual reproduction. At the same time, male and female termite workers and soldiers had genetic traces of both the primary king and primary queen, suggesting sexual reproduction.

"The conditional use of sex is unusual in insects and was previously unknown in termites. This novel use of both sexual and asexual reproduction is a way for primary queens to maximize reproductive output allowing the colony to grow bigger and faster while maintaining genetic diversity and avoiding the disadvantages of inbreeding," Vargo says.

Vargo plans to continue this research by looking for other species of female termites with dual mating systems. He adds that learning more about the genetics behind reproduction could lead to ways of preventing the production of certain castes of termites – like the primary queens that reproduce in two ways – or ways of knocking out certain gene functions in those castes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kenji Matasuura, Hiroko Nakano and Toshihisa Yashiro, Okayama University; Edward L. Vargo and Paul E. Labadie, North Carolina State University; Kazutaka Kawatsu, Kyoto University; Kazuki Tsuji, University of the Ryukyus. Queen Succession Through Asexual Reproduction in Termites. Science, March 26, 2009

Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "Sexual Reproduction: Birds Do It, Bees Do It; Termites Don't, Necessarily." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090326141549.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2009, March 28). Sexual Reproduction: Birds Do It, Bees Do It; Termites Don't, Necessarily. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090326141549.htm
North Carolina State University. "Sexual Reproduction: Birds Do It, Bees Do It; Termites Don't, Necessarily." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090326141549.htm (accessed August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Super Healthful Fruits and Vegetables: Which Are Best?

Super Healthful Fruits and Vegetables: Which Are Best?

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) We all know that it is important to eat our fruits and vegetables but do you know which ones are the best for you? Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Panda Might Have Faked Pregnancy To Get Special Treatment

Panda Might Have Faked Pregnancy To Get Special Treatment

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) A panda in China showed pregnancy symptoms that disappeared after two months of observation. One theory: Her pseudopregnancy was a ploy for perks. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Firefighters Rescue Puppy Stuck in Tire

Raw: Firefighters Rescue Puppy Stuck in Tire

AP (Aug. 26, 2014) It took Houston firefighters more than an hour to free a puppy who got its head stuck in a tire. (Aug. 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) A study published in the journal "Neurology" interviewed more than 19,000 people and found 15 percent suffer from being "sleep drunk." Video provided by Newsy
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