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termite digging behaviors comparison

In Nobuaki Mizumoto’s research on the different types of tunneling behavior among termites, he observed that, in two species—the subterranean termite, Heterotermes aureus (family Rhinotermitidae), and the long-jawed desert termite, Gnathamitermes perplexus (family Termitidae)—each termite worker used its mandibles to grab a bit of sand from the end of an under-construction tunnel, carried it outside to discard it, and then returned to take the next load. He calls that individual transportation. “But when I looked at the Paraneotermes simplicicornis, this species had a novel behavior,” he says, referring to the desert dampwood termite (family Kalotermitidae). “In this species, some individuals go to the ends of the tunnels, grab sand with their jaws, and then kick it back like a dog to the individual behind them, and that individual takes over and kicks it back farther, so it is a kind of bucket-brigade behavior.” (Video originally published supplementary to Mizumoto et al 2020, Annals of the Entomological Society of America)

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