Monday, August 13, 2012

NOW YOU KNOW

Suicide bombers aren’t unique to the human species. Aging termites in French Guiana blow themselves up to defend their colony by showering enemy termites with a deadly chemical potion, biologists have learned. Older termites of the species Neocapritermes taracua have pouches on their backs filled with blue crystals containing copper. The insects burst when they are attacked, mixing the crystals with a substance from their salivary glands to create a toxic blue goo that rains down on their foes. Other social insect species have been known to commit defensive acts of suicide—known as autothysis—by rupturing their abdominal walls and blasting their attackers with excrement. But N. taracua is the first creature found that mixes chemicals as part of its suicide strategy. “The sophistication of this is remarkable,” Olav Rueppell, an evolutionary biologist at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, tells Nature.com
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