Nitrogen economy at colony foundation in the Formosan subterranean termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)

Monday, November 17, 2014: 9:12 AM
B115-116 (Oregon Convention Center)
Aaron Mullins , Fort Lauderdale Research & Education Center, University of Florida, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Nan-Yao Su , Ft. Lauderdale Research & Education Center, University of Florida, Davie, FL
The availability of fixed nitrogen is an important limiting factor in most terrestrial ecosystems. This is particularly an issue for wood-feeding termites such as Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, whose diet is extremely high in carbohydrates, but markedly low in protein. There is evidence that termites overcome this lack of dietary nitrogen by fixing atmospheric nitrogen through the use of diazotrophic bacteria present in their gut. Colony foundation is a unique period in colony growth. Colonies are founded by a male and female alate which have flown from a parent colony. Following a dispersal flight, these alates pair off, mate, lay eggs and ultimately care for offspring until the presence of workers which are third instar or larger and have a fully developed gut. Little is known of the nitrogen investment of primary reproductives, or nitrogen economy at this critical time in colony development. This study will present the initial data of a long-term study on the molecular ecology of nitrogen economy for colonies of C. formosanus. Analytical elemental analysis of total nitrogen of founding alate pairs, eggs and progeny at colony foundation, and as colonies grow in number and size will be presented. Available nitrogen will be discussed in context of diet, stores, as well as new nitrogen acquired from the fixation of atmospheric N2.