Coordination of movement via complementary interactions of leaders and followers in termite mating pairs

Nobuaki Mizumoto, Sang Bin Lee, Gabriele Valentini, Thomas Chouvenc, Stephen C. Pratt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


In collective animal motion, coordination is often achieved by feedback between leaders and followers. For stable coordination, a leader's signals and a follower's responses are hypothesized to be attuned to each other. However, their roles are difficult to disentangle in species with highly coordinated movements, hiding potential diversity of behavioural mechanisms for collective behaviour. Here, we show that two Coptotermes termite species achieve a similar level of coordination via distinct sets of complementary leader-follower interactions. Even though C. gestroi females produce less pheromone than C. formosanus, tandem runs of both species were stable. Heterospecific pairs with C. gestroi males were also stable, but not those with C. formosanus males. We attributed this to the males' adaptation to the conspecific females; C. gestroi males have a unique capacity to follow females with small amounts of pheromone, while C. formosanus males reject C. gestroi females as unsuitable but are competitive over females with large amounts of pheromone. An information-theoretic analysis supported this conclusion by detecting information flow from female to male only in stable tandems. Our study highlights cryptic interspecific variation in movement coordination, a source of novelty for the evolution of social interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20210998
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1954
StatePublished - Jul 14 2021


  • collective behaviour
  • hybridization
  • leadership
  • tandem run
  • transfer entropy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Coordination of movement via complementary interactions of leaders and followers in termite mating pairs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this