Sex-Pairing Pheromones in Three Sympatric Neotropical Termite Species
Received: 22 December 2017 /Revised: 6 April 2018 /Accepted: 30 April 2018 /Published online: 12 May 2018
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018
Termite colonies are almost always founded by a pair of winged dispersers, in spite of the high costs and low success rates inherent in
independent colony foundation. The dispersal flights of imagoes from natal colonies are followed by mate search, mediated by sex-
pairing pheromones. Here, we studied the chemistry of sex-pairing pheromones and the related aspects of mate search in winged
imagoes of two facultatively parthenogenetic species, Embiratermes neotenicus and Silvestritermes minutus, and an additional species
fromthesamesubfamily,Silvestritermes heyeri. All three species are widespread in the Neotropics, including the rainforests of French
Guiana. After the dispersal flight and spontaneous loss of wings, females expose their hypertrophied tergal glands situated under
abdominal tergites VIII – X. The females are attractive to males and, upon direct contact, the two sexes form characteristic tandems.
Chemical analyses indicated that the females secrete species-specific combinations of unbranched, unsaturated C
from the tergal glands, (3Z,6Z,8E)-dodeca-3,6,8-trien-1-ol (approx. 200 pg per female) and (3Z)-dodec-3-enol (185 pg) in
E. neotenicus,(3Z,6Z)-dodeca-3,6-dien-1-ol (3500 pg) in S. heyeri,and(3Z,6Z)-dodeca-3,6-dien-1-ol (300 pg) and (3Z)-dodec-3-
enol (50pg) in S. minutus.(3Z,6Z,8E)-Dodeca-3,6,8-trien-1-ol and(3Z,6Z)-dodeca-3,6-dien-1-olact as major pheromonecomponents
in the respective species and mimic the function of female tergal gland extracts in electrophysiological and behavioral experiments.
Biologically relevant amounts of the third compound, (3Z)-dodec-3-enol, elicited non-significant reactions in males of E. neotenicus
and S. minutus, and slight synergistic effects in males of S. minutus when tested in combination with the major component.
Keywords Silvestritermes minutus
Independent colony foundation by alate dispersers, the prima-
ry reproductives, is by far the most frequent mode of
reproduction of termite colonies. Only in a handful of cases
has dependent colony foundation by wingless neotenic
(secondary) reproductives accompanied by sterile helpers
been documented, either as a result of budding or colony
fragmentation. These rare cases are often associated with the
propensity of colonization of new areas by invasive species
(Evans et al. 2013; Vargo and Husseneder 2011). The domi-
nance of colony reproduction by alate dispersers is surprising
given that the capacity to produce neotenic reproductives is
quite widespread in most basal termite taxa (Myles 1999).
Moreover, low success rates are inherent to alate dispersal
due to predation of alates, failure in mate search and low
survival rates of incipient colonies (e.g. Lepage 1991). This
contrasts with a great energy investment into alate production
which can exceed one third of total colony biomass (e.g.
Noirot and Darlington 2000;Thorne1983).
In termites, the typical post-flight behavior of winged dis-
persers consists of spontaneous loss of wings, mate search and
selection, and a nuptial promenade, during which the male
follows the female until the tandem reaches a suitable site to
We dedicate this work to the memory of Philippe Cerdan, the director of
HYDRECO laboratory in French Guiana.
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article
(https://doi.org/10.1007/s10886-018-0965-x) contains supplementary
material, which is available to authorized users.
* Pavlína Kyjaková
Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry, The Czech
Academy of Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic
Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague,
Prague, Czech Republic
Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sciences, Czech University of Life
Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic
Journal of Chemical Ecology (2018) 44:534–546