The structure of gallery networks in the nests of termite Cubitermes spp. revealed by X-ray tomography
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Recent studies have introduced computer tomography (CT) as a tool for the visualisation and characterisation of insect architectures. Here, we use CT to map the three-dimensional networks of galleries inside Cubitermes nests in order to analyse them with tools from graph theory. The structure of these networks indicates that connections inside the nest are rearranged during the whole nest life. The functional analysis reveals that the final network topology represents an excellent compromise between efficient connectivity inside the nest and defence against attacking predators. We further discuss and illustrate the usefulness of CT to disentangle environmental and specific influences on nest architecture.
KeywordsCubitermes nests Computer tomography Networks Social insects Animal architectures Termite mounds
We thank JP Suzzoni (Université Toulouse III), P Annoyer (Museum of Natural History, Toulouse) and A Nel (National Museum of Natural History, Paris) for lending the nests and F Joffre (CHU Rangueil, Toulouse) for giving us access to the hospital tomography scanner. We also would like to thank G Malandain (Inria, Sophia Antipolis) for sharing code that was used in the analysis and D Legland (Inra, Nantes) for help with formulae to estimate chamber surface area. A Perna is supported by a grant from the Ambassade de France in Rome and the Italian Ministero degli Affari Esteri. This work was supported by ANR-06-BYOS-0008.
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