Fellowship for Austin Merchant: Managing Stress in Termites: Perspectives from the Brain

  • Zhou, Xuguo (PI)
  • Merchant, Austin (CoI)

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The global economic cost of termite damage is an estimated $40 billion annually. Termite control relies primarily on synthetic termiticides, which show broad-spectrum toxicity and extreme persistence in soil. Alternative control strategies could target specific aspects of termite biology to minimize risks to the environment and non-target organisms, especially soil invertebrates. Termites live in intricate underground colonies, and one possibility is to disrupt the fine balance in caste composition used by termites to maximize colony fitness. If a colony fails to maintain optimal balance between social castes, the entire colony will likely fail. However, the ability to manipulate termite social structure for pest control requires a thorough understanding of the neural mechanisms that regulate caste behaviors. Our previous research suggests that the soldier caste plays a vital role in alleviating stress in termites. Workers exposed to competitor cues show ~40% mortality at 48 hours, while the presence of a single soldier among workers reduces mortality to
Effective start/end date6/1/215/31/24


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