Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences (2013) 280 (1770 - 20131885)

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Thomas Chouvenc, Caroline A. Efstathion, Monica L. Elliott and Nan-Yao Su (2013)
Extended disease resistance emerging from the faecal nest of a subterranean termite
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 280 (1770 - 20131885)
Abstract: Social insects nesting in soil environments are in constant contact with entomopathogens but have evolved a range of defence mechanisms, resulting in both individual and social immunity that reduce the chance for epizootics in the colony, as in the case of subterranean termites. Coptotermes formosanus uses its faeces as building material for its nest structure that result into a 'carton material', and here, we report that the faecal nest supports the growth of Actinobacteria which provide another level of protection to the social group against entomopathogens. A Streptomyces species with in vivo antimicrobial activity against fungal entomopathogens was isolated from the nest material of multiple termite colonies. Termite groups were exposed to Metarhizium anisopliae, a fungal entomopathogen, during their foraging activity and the presence of Streptomyces within the nest structure provided a significant survival benefit to the termites. Therefore, this report describes a non-nutritional exosymbiosis in a termite, in the form of a defensive mutualism which has emerged from the use of faecal material in the nesting structure of Coptotermes. The association with an Actinobacteria community in the termite faecal material provides an extended disease resistance to the termite group as another level of defence, in addition to their individual and social immunity.
Full text of article
Database assignments for author(s): Thomas Chouvenc, Monica L. Elliott, Nan-Yao Su

Research topic(s) for pests/diseases/weeds:
biocontrol - natural enemies
Research topic(s) for beneficials or antagonists:
resistance/tolerance/defence of host


Pest and/or beneficial records:

Beneficial Pest/Disease/Weed Crop/Product Country Quarant.


Coptotermes formosanus U.S.A. (SE)
Metarhizium anisopliae (entomopathogen) Coptotermes formosanus