Mutual use of trail-following chemical cues by a termite host and its inquiline

PLoS One. 2014 Jan 21;9(1):e85315. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085315. eCollection 2014.


Termite nests are often secondarily inhabited by other termite species ( = inquilines) that cohabit with the host. To understand this association, we studied the trail-following behaviour in two Neotropical species, Constrictotermes cyphergaster (Termitidae: Nasutitermitinae) and its obligatory inquiline, Inquilinitermes microcerus (Termitidae: Termitinae). Using behavioural experiments and chemical analyses, we determined that the trail-following pheromone of C. cyphergaster is made of neocembrene and (3Z,6Z,8E)-dodeca-3,6,8-trien-1-ol. Although no specific compound was identified in I. microcerus, workers were able to follow the above compounds in behavioural bioassays. Interestingly, in choice tests, C. cyphergaster prefers conspecific over heterospecific trails while I. microcerus shows the converse behaviour. In no-choice tests with whole body extracts, C. cyphergaster showed no preference for, while I. microcerus clearly avoided heterospecific trails. This seems to agree with the hypothesis that trail-following pheromones may shape the cohabitation of C. cyphergaster and I. microcerus and reinforce the idea that their cohabitation is based on conflict-avoiding strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Communication*
  • Animal Distribution
  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Cues*
  • Female
  • Isoptera / physiology*
  • Pheromones / physiology
  • Polyenes / metabolism


  • (3Z,6Z,8E)-dodecatrien-1-ol
  • Pheromones
  • Polyenes

Grant support

The Brazilian National Council for Research (CNPq) provided financial support to the following coauthors: PFC (doctoral grant 140085/2010-6), ODS (fellowship 302486/2010-0, PQ-2 and grant 200271/2010). The Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES) supported PFC (PDSE 9669/11-6). The Minas Gerais State Foundation for Research Support (FAPEMIG) funded significant parts of field and lab work through grants CRA-APQ-02124-09, CRA-APQ-01519-11, and BPV-00055-11. This research was also supported by the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (RVO: 61388963). JS thanks to project 20134359 of Internal Grant Agency of Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sciences (Specific research of the Czech University of Life Sciences). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.