Older workers vanquish foes in toxic, self-sacrificial burst
The likelihood of a worker exploding in a burst of toxins increases with age, at least in a species of tropical termite.
Sudden, toxic self-rupture is a mutually destructive move in fights with enemies of the South American termites Neocapritermes taracua, reports ethologist Robert Hanus of the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium. Biologists have described some other termite species with an explosively self-sacrificing caste. But the N. taracua workers blow up in a way researchers have never seen before, Hanus and an international team report in the July 27 Science.