Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Lagged population growth in a termite host colony: cause or consequence of inquilinism?

Abstract

The presence of foreign organisms in the colonies of social insects could affect energy allocation to growth and reproduction of these hosts. Highly specialized invaders of such long-lived hosts, however, can be selected to be less harmful. After all, it pays for these symbionts to keep their host's good health thereby prolonging cohabitation in the homeostatic environment of the termite colony. Here, we investigated such a hypothesis, focusing on populational parameters of a termite host sharing its nest with an obligatory termite inquiline. To this end, 19 natural colonies of Constrictotermes cyphergaster (Silvestri, 1901) (Termitidae: Nasutitermitinae) were sampled and the (i) number of individuals, (ii) proportion of soldier/workers in the colonies, and (iii) presence/absence of obligatory inquiline Inquilinitermes microcerus (Silvestri, 1901) (Termitidae: Termitinae) were measured. Results revealed a negative correlation between the number of individuals and the proportion of soldier/workers in the host colonies with the presence of I. microcerus colonies. In search of causal mechanisms for such a correlation, we inspected life history traits of both, inquilines and hosts, hypothesizing that such a result could indicate either (i) a dampening effect of the inquiline upon its host population or (ii) the coincidence of the moment of inquiline infiltration with the natural reduction of C. cyphergaster populational growth at the onset of its reproductive phase.