Starvation-associated Mortality, Cannibalism, Body Weight, and Intestinal Symbiotic Protist Profile of Reticulitermes Flavipes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)
  Key Words  
  food deprivation, physiological behavior, ecological behavior, intestinal microbes
  Xing Ping Hu
  This study investigated the effects of food deprivation on survival, cannibalism, body weight, and hindgut symbiotic protist communities in Eastern subterranean termites, Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar). Termite groups in natural worker and soldier ratio were tested in Petri dishes that were half filled with sand, with or without a food source, under laboratory conditions for 40 days. Starvation resulted in significantly higher mortality than groups with access to food. Compared to controls, the surviving workers showed little weight loss and exhibited little or no reduction in aliveness. Close examination indicated that the surviving workers primarily lived by cannibalizing nest- mates. When the experiment was terminated at 40 days, the surviving workers were dissected to count the symbiotic protists inhabiting their hindguts. Among the 10 identified protists, starvation eliminated 3 species (Trichonympha agilis, Pyrsonympha vertens, and P. major), significantly reduced the population of 4 species (Dinenympha fimbriata, D. gracilis, Holomastigotes elongatum, and Spironympha kofoidi), but had little effect or even encouraged population growth in 3 species (Monocercomonas sp., Trichomitus trypanoides, and Spirotrichonympha flagellata).