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Coptotermes gestroi exuviae

Closeup view of the bottom of a clear vial, on a light gray background. Inside the vial are thousands of tiny molted termite exoskeletons, appearing collectively almost as sand.

As part of a study examining how consuming molted exoskeltons contributes to nitrogen recycling in colonies of subterranean termites, researchers collected the exoskeltons (called “exuviae”) and either provisioned colonies with the exoskeltons or removed them nearly completely to observe the subsequent effects on colony growth and reproductive capacity of the queen and king. Shown here are exuviae of Asian subterranean termite (Coptotermes gestroi) collected in a vial. (Photo courtesy of Reina Tong, Ph.D.)

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