Hydroquinone: A General Phagostimulating Pheromone in Termites
- Cite this article as:
- Reinhard, J., Lacey, M.J., Ibarra, F. et al. J Chem Ecol (2002) 28: 1. doi:10.1023/A:1013554100310
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The organization of termite societies depends predominantly on intraspecific chemical signals (pheromones) produced by exocrine glands, which induce and modulate individual behavioral responses. Here, the saliva-producing labial glands of termites were investigated with respect to their pheromonal role in communal food exploitation of termite colonies. From these glands, we identified for the first time hydroquinone (1,4-dihydroxybenzene) as a phagostimulating pheromone in the Australian termite species Mastotermes darwiniensis. Hydroquinone is released from the labial glands of termite workers and applied onto the food. It stimulates nestmates to feed at the spot of application and is, thus, employed to mark feeding sites. No synergistic effect with other identified labial gland compounds, such as glucose, inositol, and arbutin, was evident. Significantly, we show that termite species from all over the world, irrespective of taxonomic position and biological traits, produce and employ hydroquinone as phagostimulating signal. The use of the same chemical signal throughout an order is a unique phenomenon, not reported before in animals. Its possible biosynthetic pathway, ecological significance, and evolution are discussed.