, Volume 118, Issue 2, pp 183-191

Reproductive success of Macrotermes bellicosus (Isoptera, Macrotermitinae) in two neighbouring habitats

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The fungus-cultivating, mound-building termite Macrotermes bellicosus can reach high densities in African savannah habitats, whereas in forests it is comparatively rare and is only found in relatively open areas. Earlier studies in the Comoé National Park (Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa) suggested that this might be because ambient temperatures are lower in the forest than the savannah. Therefore, forests seem to be suboptimal habitats. During 3 consecutive years we measured relevant fitness parameters in both habitats to test this hypothesis. Colonies in the savannah had higher reproductive outputs. They reproduced annually, producing high numbers of offspring (alates), whereas forest colonies reproduced on average only once every 3 years and even then only low numbers of alates were produced. Annual growth of mound height, which can be regarded as an indicator of colony growth, varied considerably between individual colonies and years. Nevertheless, in two years the growth rate of mounds in the shrub savannah was higher than that of mounds in the gallery forest. Unexpectedly, survival probability as calculated by Kaplan Meier analysis was much lower for colonies in the shrub savannah than for colonies in the gallery forest. Using these data in a computer simulation we calculated lifetime reproductive success (LRS) for an average colony in both habitats. As LRS was much higher for colonies in the shrub savannah than in the gallery forest, these results confirmed our suggestion that the forest is a suboptimal habitat for M. bellicosus.