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termites with marked exuviae added

Overhead view of a round clear container with a white bottom, on which lie several termites and shed termite exoskeletons.

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 subset of a colony of Asian subterranean termites (Coptotermes gestroi) in a dish for observation in a lab. (Photo courtesy of Reina Tong, Ph.D.)

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