Why don’t all termite species have a sterile worker caste?

  title={Why don’t all termite species have a sterile worker caste?},
  author={Masahiko Higashi and Norio Yamamura and Takuya Abe and Thomas P. Burns},
  journal={Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences},
  pages={25 - 29}
  • M. Higashi, N. Yamamura, +1 author T. P. Burns
  • Published 22 October 1991
  • Biology, Medicine
  • Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences
No general theory explains why a sterile worker caste is not found in all species of both Hymenoptera and Isoptera (Insecta). Recent empirical findings show that, in the termites (Isoptera), feeding outside the nest correlates well with the evolution of the sterile (true) worker caste from the non-sterile (false) worker caste. Here we explain the connection between food—nest separation and true worker evolution in termites, providing a general theory on the restricted distribution of the… 
Coming out of the woods: do termites need a specialized worker caste to search for new food sources?
It is suggested that large colonies with true workers, like those of most Rhinotermitidae, may easily have evolved from a Prorhinotermes-like pattern if submitted to increasing selective pressures for worker efficiency in a stable environment.
Theories on the Sociality of Termites
This chapter reviews social evolution and organization, highlighting termites. First, we review the distribution and evolutionary patterns of eusociality, characterized by the sterile worker and
On the origin of termite workers: weighing up the phylogenetic evidence
This paper compares the models of Grandcolas and D'Haese and Thompson et al. and attempts to make explicit how these proposals differ with respect to the number of, and homology between, character states.
Reproductive decision-making in the termite, Cryptotermes secundus (Kalotermitidae), under variable food conditions
This work examined the influence of ecological factors on reproductive tactics in the drywood termite, Cryptotermes secundus, and found individuals seem to switch their tactic from being a helper to becoming a dispersing reproductive if nest conditions deteriorate and the nests's longevity decline.
Developmental pathways of Glossotermes oculatus (Isoptera, Serritermitidae): at the cross‐roads of worker caste evolution in termites
It is argued that pseudergates of G. oculatus are close to a point where the species could easily shift toward the differentiation of a true worker caste, and that G. Oculatus pinpoints a new possible route for the evolution of true workers from pseudergate.
Social organisation and the status of workers in termites
The status of working individuals throughout the Isoptera is reviewed, insisting on the need for a consistent terminology, and three major kinds of social organisation are emphasized, with respect to the worker caste.
Eusocial Evolution in Termites and Hymenoptera
Substantial overlap occurs in the genes controlling caste and the shift of parental care to offspring via heterochrony, suggesting ecological pressures lead to co-option of similar developmental mechanisms in the Isoptera and Hymenoptera.
Frequent colony fusions provide opportunities for helpers to become reproductives in the termite Zootermopsis nevadensis
This work allowed entire colonies of Zootermopsis nevadensis to interact, merge, and develop in the lab, then used genetic markers to determine the family of origin of reproductives, soldiers, and helpers, and measured the frequency of mixed-family colonies in natural settings.
The Termite Worker Phenotype Evolved as a Dispersal Strategy for Fertile Wingless Individuals before Eusociality
An added benefit of the hypothesis is that it neatly explains the origin of termite eusociality itself: in the pre-eusocial ancestral species, the poor dispersal ability of the wingless phenotype would have led to clustering of relatives around shared resources—a prerequisite for nonparental care of close relatives.
Chapter 7 The Ecology of Social Evolution in Termites
Judith Korb Department Biology I, University of Regensburg, 93040 Regensburg, Germany judith.korb@biologie.uni-regensburg.de Abstract Termites (Isoptera) belong to the classical eusocial insects and


A comparison of tree ring evidence for chronic insect suppression of productivity in subalpine Eucalyptus and environmental controls on the seasonality of a drought deciduous shrub, Diplacus aurantiacus and its predator, the checkerspot butterfly, Euphydras chalcedona, and climatological data-North Carolina 1987.
The genetical evolution of social behaviour. I.
  • W. Hamilton
  • Biology, Medicine
    Journal of theoretical biology
  • 1964
A genetical mathematical model is described which allows for interactions between relatives on one another's fitness and a quantity is found which incorporates the maximizing property of Darwinian fitness, named “inclusive fitness”.
Evolution of eusociality in termites.
  • S. H. Bartz
  • Biology, Medicine
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
  • 1979
A model is presented that demonstrates that asymmetries in relatedness such that individuals are more closely related to siblings than to offspring develop in diploid pedigrees under conditions of inbreeding, predicting that eusocial-type helping behavior can be favored by natural selection.
The worker caste is polyphyletic in termites
  • Sociobiology
  • 1988