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J Morphol. 2003 Jul;257(1):22-32.

Winged presoldiers induced by a juvenile hormone analog in Zootermopsis nevadensis: implications for plasticity and evolution of caste differentiation in termites.

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Department of Biology, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo, Tokyo 153-8902, Japan.


To elucidate the switching mechanism of caste differentiation in termites and to examine the possible induction of soldier-reproductive intercastes experimentally, we investigated the effects of juvenile hormone on the morphologies of soldier caste by applying a juvenile hormone analog (JHA) to nymphs of the damp-wood termite Zootermopsis nevadensis (Isoptera : Termopsidae). JHA treatment for about 2 weeks induced a variety of intermediate castes, showing both alate and soldier morphological features. The principal component analysis (PCA) of those morphological characters showed that those intercastes were a deviation from the developmental line into alates to soldier differentiation, which is known to be triggered by juvenile hormone. Detailed morphological examination of the compound eyes, wing joint, and mandibles showed that those intercastes expressed soldier features, although they had started to develop alate characteristics. The morphology of the resultant intercastes seemed to be determined by the nymphal stage, at which JHA treatment was applied. The induced intercastes with exaggerated soldier-specific characteristics (e.g., mandibles) repressed alate-specific characteristics (e.g., wings), namely, the alate and soldier morphological characteristics in induced intercastes show opposite responses against the application of JHA. On the other hand, ovarian development was not suppressed by the JHA application, even in the soldier-like individuals. Naturally differentiated presoldiers also possessed developed ovarioles, although ovaries of mature soldiers were degenerated. Our results suggest that the juvenile hormone plays complicated roles in the expression of caste morphologies and ovarian development in termites.

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