Modern termites inherited the potential of collective construction from their common ancestor

  • Nobuaki Mizumoto (Contributor)
  • Thomas Bourguignon (Contributor)



Animal collective behaviors give rise to various spatial patterns, such as the nests of social insects. These structures are built by individuals following a simple set of rules, slightly varying within and among species, to produce a large diversity of shapes. However, little is known about the origin and evolution of the behavioral mechanisms regulating nest structures. In this study, we discuss the perspective of inferring the evolution of collective behaviors behind pattern formations using a phylogenetic framework. We review the collective behaviors that can be described by a single set of behavioral rules, and for which variations of the environmental and behavioral parameter values produce diverse patterns. We propose that this mechanism could be at the origin of the pattern diversity observed among related species, and that, when they are placed in the proper conditions, species have the behavioral potential to form patterns observed in related species. The comparative analysis of shelter-tube construction by lower termites is consistent with this hypothesis. Although the use of shelter-tubes in natural conditions is variable among species, most modern species have the potential to build shelter-tubes, suggesting that the behavioral rules for shelter-tube construction evolved once in the common ancestor of modern termites. Our study emphasizes that comparative studies of behavioral rules have the potential to shed light on the evolution of collective behaviors.
Date made availableJan 1 2020

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