Published on July 26th, 2012 | by Steven Hodson0
Termites And The Blue Ring Of Death
No this isn’t anything related to the famous Xbox Red Ring Of Death but from a nature point of view it is far cooler, unless of course you end up on the receiving end of it.
It seems, according to researchers, that as termites age their mandibles, biting areas, get worn down to the point where they really aren’t much use to the termite colony; but to make up for this the researchers found that these ‘older’ termites become suicidal chemical weapons specialists whose job it is now to keep the colony safe from other termite invaders.
Apparently as termites age, and their biting equipment becomes less useful, there is a band of blue sticky substance that begins to accumulate around their abdomen. It turns out that unlike the whiter sticky substance that juvenile termites can release when they are trying to protect the colony this blue substance is toxic and the termites with this blue band will burst sooner than the juveniles when prodded by an enemy.
The authors isolated the blue substance and purified a copper-binding protein from it (which explains its blue color). And they discovered that the termite species in question has a small gland at the junction between two body parts (the thorax and abdomen), dedicated to producing the toxic substance. It ends up stored just below the surface of the animal’s cuticle, ready to burst out when it’s bitten.
via Ars Technica