Head-banging

Tuesday 15 February 2000

Termites under attack from fungi send out an alarm signal warning the rest of the colony, says James Traniello, who studied the termites along with his colleagues at Boston University, USA. Traniello's team created an artificial nest with the central gallery divided by a wire mesh. The termites could escape via small tunnels connected to each side of the chamber. The team then infected one segment of the nest with the fungus Metarhizium anisopliae . When concentrations of the fungus were increased, they began wagging their heads in different directions. "It produces a vibration," says Traniello. Other termites sensed the signal in their legs and escaped down the tunnels ( New Scientist , Vol 164, No 2212).

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