According to an article in LiveScience, head-banging termites send out long-distance distress signals by bashing their noggins into the ground a dozen or so times per second, researchers find.
In the African savanna, termites such as Macrotermes natalensis and related species construct gigantic mounds in which they grow fungus for food like farmers. To defend their homes against predators such as hungry aardvarks, termites need ways to communicate with remote nestmates over long distances.
To find out more about how termites work together, scientists analyzed termites in South Africa. Since these insects are difficult to find outside their colonies, the researchers opened up the mounds at their bases and recorded how soldier termites warned their nestmates of intrusions using high-speed cameras.
The investigators witnessed the soldiers rapidly banging their heads on the ground about 11 times per second, with signals each capable of spreading nearly 15 inches (40 centimeters). Soldiers that received the warning ran to assist their nestmates, while workers retreated. Comparable results were seen with a similar African termite species belonging to the genus Odontotermes.
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