Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Colony-age-dependent variation in cuticular hydrocarbon profiles in subterranean termite colonies

Citation

Gordon, Johnalyn; Šobotník, Jan; Chouvenc, Thomas (2021), Colony-age-dependent variation in cuticular hydrocarbon profiles in subterranean termite colonies, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.59zw3r24h

Abstract

Cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) have, in insects, important physiological and ecological functions, such as protection against desiccation and as semiochemicals in eusocial taxa, including termites. CHCs are, in termites, known to vary qualitatively and/or quantitatively among species, populations, or seasons. Changes to hydrocarbon profile composition have been linked to varying degrees of aggression between termite colonies, although the variability of results among studies suggests that additional factors might have been involved. One source of variability may be colony age; however, this factor has never been investigated. We studied caste-specific patterns of CHC profiles in Coptotermes gestroi colonies of four different age classes (6, 18, 30, and 42 months). The CHC profiles were variable among castes in the youngest colonies, but progressively converged with increasing colony age. Young colonies had a less-defined CHC identity compared to older ones, which likely obscures the colony’s ability to detect non-nestmates. Our data suggest that there is no selective pressure on an early-defined colony CHC profile, potentially allowing incipient colonies to merge non-agonistically with competing conspecifics as an indirect result. 

Methods

  • 4 age classes of termite colonies were samples for Brood (eggs/larvae), Workers, Kings, and Queens
  • Compounds were eluted in hexane. 

  • GC-MS outputs identified using retention time, CHC standards, NIST mass spectral library, and known C. gestroi profile (Chouvenc et al. 2017)

  • Poor matches were discarded from outputs

  • Area under the peak integrated for total raw abundance for each compound

  • Cumulative overall abundance for the 13 CHC compounds of interest was used to determine the relative abundance of each CHC for all samples

Funding

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Award: ARS 58-6435-8-276

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB 1754083

Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Award: 20195006

Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Award: 20195006