Published on July 26th, 2012 | by Steven Hodson


Termites And The Blue Ring Of Death

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



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About the Author

Steven has been around the tech world long enough to see most of the stuff we think of cool happen before which leads to a certain bit of cynicism that has contributed to him being known as the cranky old fart of the Internet. Besides sharing some of the goodness that he finds with you here at 42x you can also find him curating some digital goodness at Winextra (tech type stuff) and Rotten Gumdrops (for your daily dose of WTF).

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