Interspecific variation in terpenoid composition of defensive secretions of European Reticulitermes termites

J Chem Ecol. 2003 Mar;29(3):639-52. doi: 10.1023/a:1022868603108.


Sixteen terpene compounds were isolated from the soldier defensive secretions of seven European termite taxa of the genus Reticulitermes (Isoptera, Rhinotermitidae). We describe species-specific mixtures of monoterpenes (alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, limonene), sesquiterpenes (germacrene C, germacrene A, germacrene B, beta-selinene, delta-selinene, gamma-selinene, (E)-beta-farnesene, gamma-cadinene, nerolidol), diterpenes (geranyl linalool, geranyl geraniol, geranyl geranial), and one sesterterpene (geranyl farnesol). Compounds were purified by HPLC and their structures determined by means of MS spectrometry, or 1D and 2D NMR spectroscopy. Comparison of two different analytical approaches, CC-MS and HPLC with subsequent NMR spectroscopy, revealed Cope rearrangement of germacrene A, germacrene B, and germacrene C to the respective beta-elemene, gamma-elemene, and delta-elemene under GC conditions, thus demonstrating the limits for this analytical approach. The species-specific compound composition provides insight into taxonomy and species origin of European Reticulitermes. The biological significance of the species-specific composition of Reticulitermes defensive secretions is briefly discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Europe
  • Exocrine Glands / physiology*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Isoptera / classification
  • Isoptera / genetics*
  • Isoptera / physiology*
  • Population Dynamics
  • Species Specificity
  • Terpenes / chemistry*


  • Terpenes