How Do Termites Find Wood If They Are Devoid Of All Senses?
Termites are not talked about too often during social get togethers, and that is because termites are a major downer. But there are some pretty odd things going on with termites. For example, termites cannot smell, taste or even see anything at all, they are completely blind. However, termites have shown themselves to be picky eaters, and some types of wood will be outright rejected by termites. So how can termites find and feed on wood if they cannot even see? A recent study has demonstrated that termites refer to vibrations in order to get an idea of what type of wood they are munching on.
According to Ra Inta, an entomologist with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, if you put two different sized pieces of wood in front of a termite, that termite would be able to distinguish the larger piece from the smaller piece, but not without taking a small bite of each one first. When a termite takes a bite out of a piece of wood, subtle vibrations result. These vibrations tell the termite about the size of the piece of wood.
Termites pull tiny wooden fibers from wood, and once a termite bites off a small piece, a vibration is emitted throughout the entire structure. This vibration is felt by the termite and lets it know what it is eating. So of course the researchers quickly discovered that they could manipulate the termites taste in wood by altering vibrations.
The researchers recorded the vibrations that a termite made when it fed on a large piece of wood. The researchers then reproduced these same vibrations on a much smaller piece of wood, and the termites could not tell the difference. They still thought it was a large piece of wood. Researchers are still trying to figure out what makes these vibrations so telling to termites.
Under what sorts of circumstances or situations would it be advantageous to not possess the sense of sight?