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Suicidal defensive behaviour by frontal gland dehiscence in Globitermes sulphureus Haviland soldiers (Isoptera)

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Globitermes sulphureus is a well-known termite for the suicidal behaviour of the soldiers which liberate a sticky defensive secretion by rupturing their body. We have shown that this secretion is elaborated in a highly transformed frontal gland occupying a large part of the abdomen and the thorax, and not in the salivary glands as had been assumed until now. This special frontal gland without an outside opening is ruptured by violent contractions of the abdominal wall at the level of a weakness area of the sternal thoracic integument, just before the forecoxae. This soldier autothysis is efficient but represents only one of the components of the defensive strategy of the species which also uses a mechanical defense with mandibles and the intervention of an alarm pheromone recruiting congeners.

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Received 27 February 1997; revised 20 May 1997; accepted 30 May 1997.

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Bordereau, C., Robert, A., Van Tuyen, V. et al. Suicidal defensive behaviour by frontal gland dehiscence in Globitermes sulphureus Haviland soldiers (Isoptera). Insectes soc. 44, 289–297 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1007/s000400050049

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s000400050049

  • Key words: Defensive behaviour, autothysis, termites.