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Insects 2012, 3(2), 538-552; doi:10.3390/insects3020538

Neotenic Phenotype and Sex Ratios Provide Insight into Developmental Pathways in Reticulitermes flavipes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)

Department of Entomology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 16 April 2012 / Revised: 13 May 2012 / Accepted: 14 May 2012 / Published: 4 June 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feature Papers 2012)
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Several thousand Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar) including worker, nymph, soldier, neotenic and alate castes were collected from three pine logs brought into the laboratory on dates five years apart. The neotenics, all nymphoid, were divided into three groups based on the extent of cuticle pigmentation and termed regular neotenics (RN), black-headed neotenics (BHN) or black neotenics (BN). All castes, from Log A, in 2008, provided a neutral sex ratio except BHN (N = 378) and BN (N = 51) which were exclusively male while the soldiers (N = 466) were female-biased. This information suggests that there is a sex-linked bifurcation along the path for termite development with a male-biased neotenic or female-biased soldier as the choice. In contrast, termites collected in 2004 from Log B provided sex ratios that included a female biased RN (N = 1017), a neutral soldier (N = 258) and male biased BHN (N = 99) and workers (N = 54). Log C, collected in 2009, provided female biased soldiers (N = 32), RNs (N = 18) and BHNs (N = 4) and only male BN (N = 5). Eight laboratory cultures, ranging in age from five to 14 years old, also were sampled and all castes sexed. The census included a 14-year old queen-right colony, an 8-year old polyandrous colony and six colonies provided nymphs and male-biased worker populations. Together these data indicate a flexible caste determination system providing a unique opportunity for a better understanding of the flexible developmental options available in R. flavipes that we discuss relative to the literature on Reticulitermes ontogeny.
Keywords: Isoptera; life cycle; neotenic differentiation; sex ratio Isoptera; life cycle; neotenic differentiation; sex ratio
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Hu, J.; Forschler, B.T. Neotenic Phenotype and Sex Ratios Provide Insight into Developmental Pathways in Reticulitermes flavipes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Insects 2012, 3, 538-552.

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