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Idle Science

"Exploding" Termite Species Discovered 158

Posted by samzenpus
from the needs-of-the-many dept.
ananyo writes "A species of termite found in the rainforests of French Guiana takes altruism seriously: aged workers grow sacks of toxic blue liquid that they explode onto their enemies in an act of suicidal self-sacrifice to help their colonies. The 'explosive backpacks' of Neocapritermes taracua grow throughout the lifetimes of the worker termites, filling with blue crystals secreted by a pair of glands on the insects' abdomens. Older workers carry the largest and most toxic backpacks. Those individuals also, not coincidentally, are the least able to forage and tend for the colony: their mandibles become dull and worn as the termites age, because they cannot be sharpened by moulting (abstract)."
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"Exploding" Termite Species Discovered

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2012 @08:12PM (#40785577)

    Banelings 1.0

    • How about blast-ended scroots?

    • I would have expected that these suicide bomber termites were from Afghanistan, not French Guiana.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2012 @08:14PM (#40785603)

    Scientists have discovered small crystals embedded in the ants' palms that turn to a different color when the ant's maximum age has been reached. However, in one colony they observed two ants trying to escape this fate by running away from the colony and finding sanctuary. Other ants were tasks with hunting down the two runners and terminating them.

  • by VAElynx (2001046) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @08:16PM (#40785633)
    This feels like something Dr. Wondertainment would put in a nature documentary.
  • I was this close ( > ) to start mocking the submitter about misspelling Thermite. Luckily, for once I did read TFS.
  • by Osgeld (1900440) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @08:18PM (#40785663)

    They swell up, they dribble, explode? I never saw it in the example provided.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    we should expect that level of Altrusim from political leaders of all parties - ship em to Afghanistan

    • Re:I believe (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:30PM (#40786177) Journal

      we should expect that level of Altrusim from political leaders of all parties - ship em to Afghanistan

      You don't want to go there. Among termites, the leader lies immobile, too bloated with the next generation of sterile workers to move, constantly licked and tended by fanatical servitors controlled by chemical signals.

      Are there really any world leaders that you would want to imagine holed up in the basement of their respective governance structures, their bloated, naked, abdomen stuffed with fetuses to the size of a 747 fuselage, being fanatically tongue-bathed by their aides as they pour forth the next generation of citizens to serve the nation?

      • You are right. I don't want to imagine that.
        However...
        I can believe that some of them would find it appealing.
  • Obligatory: (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hartree (191324) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @08:25PM (#40785723)

    "We are the Judean People's Front crack suicide squad! "

  • Annnnd... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @08:27PM (#40785735)
    Boom goes the termite.
  • That's pretty damn cool.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DyqPzmox4U [youtube.com]

  • by riverat1 (1048260) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @08:31PM (#40785775)

    Suicide bombers think they're being altruistic too.

    • by Tablizer (95088) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @08:45PM (#40785871) Homepage Journal

      no, they just want the pleasures of 72 maggots.

    • by PPH (736903)

      If they strapped the vest onto some 75 year old imam, then I'd say 'Yes'. But they find the younger and potentially more valuable members to society. Or the skilled (engineers, pilots, etc.) and sent them in.

      Cowards.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:33PM (#40786209) Journal

      Suicide bombers think they're being altruistic too.

      Are they incorrect? Suicide bombing is rather... downmarket... in these days of advanced robotic munitions(and so tends to be done against, rather than for us in particular); but if accepting a mission with a near-100% fatality rate in order to advance your in-group's objectives doesn't qualify as 'altruism', it's hard to imagine what would... Nothing about the definition of 'altruism' requires that your in-group be especially large, or not a bunch of raging assholes.

  • A termite bomb.
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @08:40PM (#40785837) Homepage Journal

    Older workers carry the largest and most toxic backpacks. Those individuals also, not coincidentally, are the least able to forage and tend for the colony: their mandibles become dull and worn as the termites age

    "and get off my #@!& lawn!" KABOOOM!
       

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @08:49PM (#40785895)

    This kind of suicidal defence using bodily fluids is not unheard of among certain termite species [wikipedia.org].

    • Actually all use of venom outside of hunting for food is a bit of a self-destructive behavior, venom requires massive amounts of energy to produce and frequently expending it for purposes other than consuming more energy is bound to be an evolutionary dead end, which is why most venomous animals also have plenty of ways of indicating they are poisonous(rattles on rattlesnakes, bright colors etc). Its much cheaper to warn than to actually use the venom....

      For the termites, this energy expenditure explains
    • Alas, the two-component defence apparently is: the blue crystals by themselves are already toxic, but when they mix with another component the mixture becomes even more lethal.

  • by paleo2002 (1079697) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:08PM (#40786033)
    Splice this into humans and it'll solve the social security's financial problems AND the war on terror! Bonus: the line at the post office will move faster.
  • by Ellis D. Tripp (755736) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:08PM (#40786041) Homepage

    Sounds like these little guys have been watching too much Breaking Bad....

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Exploding termites have been known about for quite a while. Check out wikipedia [wikipedia.org]'s page on the subject: the oldest reference cited is from 1974.

    • by z3d4r (598419)

      Exploding termites have been known about for quite a while. Check out wikipedia [wikipedia.org]'s page on the subject: the oldest reference cited is from 1974.

      what hasnt been seen until now is that these termites are using a toxic bomb that mixes two seperate ingredients.
      while the wiki link you provided does cite older references, they are only for the single ingredient toxic bombs.
      the most recent references it contains are dated today, and show the dual ingredient bomb carrying termites.

      the other interesting thing about these termites is that the secondary ingredient is a crystiline copper chemical that is accumulated over the workers life, resulting in older wo

  • ZERG RUSH!!!
  • by Psychotria (953670) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @11:06PM (#40786721)

    Why on Earth is this tagged "idle"? And why are most of the comments jokes? Well, most likely there's lots of jokes because it's "idle". Are there any actual nerds still here?

  • Suicide squad of the Neocapritermes taracua liberation army, ATTACK!

  • by Chrisq (894406)
    The Muslims of the insect world!
  • The most underwhelming use of the word explode ever.

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