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Coptotermes gestroi exuvium

Closeup of shed termite exoskelton on gray background. Exoskeleton is light golden brown in color, transparent in places, and misshapen, only vaguely resembling the body of a termite.

Termites’ wood-heavy diet offers little nitrogen, a critical nutrient for growth and reproduction. But their exoskeletons are nitrogen rich, and new research shows that eating shed exoskeletons after molting is a core strategy for recycling nitrogen throughout the termite colony and boosting the queen’s egg-laying. Shown here is a closeup of a single exuvia, or shed exoskeleton, of an in species such as the Asian subterranean termite (Coptotermes gestroi). (Photo courtesy of Reina Tong, Ph.D.)

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