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Termite soldiers locate battles with vibrational clues

The insects rely on millisecond-long signal delays to find their way

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12:03pm, July 22, 2014

DEFENDER  A soldier termite stands ready to headbang an alarm and use its superbly sensitive legs to catch clues about which way to run to defend itscolony against a predator.

A soldier termite can tell which way to run in a crisis by sensing SOS-message time delays — only hundredths of a human eyeblink long — with its feet.

Africa’s Macrotermes natalensis termite relies on a fighter caste to defend its hardened, meter-high-plus mounds and up to several thousand square meters of underground tunnels. When an aardvark or other predator gouges the insects’ home, termites known as major soldiers pound their heads against the floors. The vibrations from the drumbeat tell other soldiers to speed to the breach.

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