Researchers discover termites that evolve into king and queens can GROW their brains before they leave the nest to mate 

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  • Some members of the insect can increase the size of their brains when they are about to leave the nest
  • Only the king and queen dumpwood termites can leave the nest and as a result, they develop the optic lobe part of their brain.
  • Growth matches the insect’s cognitive demands, but changes occurred before it was needed
  • This may mean that change occurs when insects evolve into ‘species’

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Termites have been around for more than 120 million years, but scientists have just learned that some members of insects can increase the size of their brains when they are about to leave the nest.

Researchers at Drexel University have learned that king and queen dumpwood termites – the only members of the herd to leave the nest – can develop the optic lobe part of their brains as they about to leave the nest and build other habitats.

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They found that the brain regions matched the insect’s cognitive demands—but the brain changes before they knew they needed it.

This suggests that this occurs when the insect is developing into a certain ‘species’, in this case, a king or queen.

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Some members of insects can increase the size of their brains when they are about to leave the nest.

King and Queen Dumpwood Termites May Develop Optic Lobe Part of Their Brains

King and Queen Dumpwood Termites May Develop Optic Lobe Part of Their Brains

The study’s lead author, Drexel University Professor Sean O’Donnell, said in a study that the word ‘race’ when applied to insect societies – is the idea that you have specific individuals who play different roles. Statement.

Neuroecology explores how the mind develops and develops with the idea that a person’s brain structure will be shaped according to the demands faced by him.

‘Learning that kings and queens have different visual investments is important, but not surprising—what is special is our ability to identify and measure the stage of development that is a precursor to a person’s transition as a king or queen. Is.’

Experts used their knowledge of dumpwood termites and what different brain tissue would be needed, depending on the role, to predict how they evolved.

During the first three stages of a termite’s life, they do not vary much. However, when a nymph reaches the fourth stage, she can become a winged king or queen, a worker, a soldier, or a wingless progenitor.

It is at this stage, when the brain begins to change in anticipation of potentially leaving the nest and forming and starting a new colony.

‘Some nymphs have small developed wing pads – this stage does not leave the nest, they are not technically kings or queens yet, but at that stage the architecture of the brain is changing and the brain is not able to use it. are installed for. A mild bright environment,’ O’Donnell said.

‘Brain change happened in evolution before need be.

‘This is surprising and exciting, because this kind of anticipated brain development is not seen very often, as well as the fact that, with some accuracy, we can predict a person’s developmental future and it seems that The brain is tracking that trajectory, although it is not being used yet.’

Increase in brain size matches insect's cognitive demands, but changes occurred before they were needed

Increase in brain size matches insect’s cognitive demands, but changes occurred before they were needed

This suggests that some moist wood termites are ‘experience-expected’, meaning that they change their minds before needing change.

‘Experience-anticipated brain tissue growth is rarely documented in insects, as it involves a high potential cost of tissue production and maintenance and relatively few immediate sensory/cognitive benefits,’ the researchers write in the study.

Although rare, there are cases of bees that have exhibited ‘experience-expectation’ changes, suggesting that they can also increase the size of their brains depending on the tasks.

More research is needed to see how the investment in additional brain tissue can be offset before receiving the payoff to leave the nest.

For kings and queen dumpwood termites, O’Donnell said this can result in mating flights soon after reaching adulthood.

The study was published earlier this week in science of nature.

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