Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 3, Issue 5, pp 579–590 | Cite as

Soldier frontal glands of the termiteMacrotermes subhyalinus: Morphology, chemical composition, and use in defense

  • Glenn D. Prestwich
  • B. A. Bierl
  • E. D. Devilbiss
  • M. F. B. Chaudhury


Soldiers of the East African fungus-growing termiteMacrotermes subhyalinus (Rambur) (Termitidae: Macrotermitinae) employ both mechanical and chemical defenses. Soldiers release a chemical secretion composed of long-chain saturated and monounsaturated hydrocarbons into wounds inflicted by their powerful mandibles. Chemical analysis of the secretion shows the paraffin fraction to consist primarily ofn-tricosane,n-pentacosane, 3- and 5-methylpentacosane, and 5-methylheptacosane. The major oleflns were identified as (Z)-9-heptacosene and (Z)-9-nonacosene. The secretion originates from the frontal glands of both major and minor soldiers; however, the hypertrophied gland of the major soldiers contains 500-fold more secretion than that of the minor soldiers. This secretion appears to impair the healing of wounds in test ants, and thus could represent a valuable supplement to the mechanical defense mechanism.

Key words

Macrotermes subhyalinus chemical defense termite soldier frontal gland fungus-growing termites long-chain hydrocarbons 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Glenn D. Prestwich
    • 1
  • B. A. Bierl
    • 2
  • E. D. Devilbiss
    • 2
  • M. F. B. Chaudhury
    • 3
  1. 1.The International Centre of Insect Physiology and EcologyNairobiKenya
  2. 2.U.S.D.A. Organic Chemicals Synthesis LaboratoryAgricultural Environmental Quality InstituteBeltsville
  3. 3.Department of ChemistryState University of New YorkStony Brook

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