Research Article

Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 60, Issue 4, pp 525-530

First online:

Colony-specific architecture of shelter tubes by termites

  • N. MizumotoAffiliated withLaboratory of Insect Ecology, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University
  • , K. MatsuuraAffiliated withLaboratory of Insect Ecology, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University Email author 

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Social insects build sophisticated and complex architectures such as huge nests and underground galleries based on self-organizing rules. The structures of these architectures vary widely in size and shape within a species. Some studies have revealed that the current environmental and/or social factors can cause differences in the architectures that emerge from collective building. However, little is known about the effect of colony-level variations on the architecture. Here, we demonstrate that termite colonies build colony-specific architecture using shelter-tube construction as a model system. When we divided a colony into multiple groups of individuals, groups drawn from the same colony performed similar patterns of construction, whereas groups from different colonies exhibited different patterns. The colony variations in shelter-tube construction are generally thought to reflect differences in foraging strategy, and this difference can have important fitness consequences depending on the distribution of wood resources in the environment. This is the first demonstration of colony variation in the architecture that emerges from collective behavior. Colony-specific architectural variations provide new insights into our understanding of the self-organization systems, which were previously assumed to provide each species with a species-specific construction mechanism.


Collective behavior Self-organization Gallery architecture Colony variation Social insects