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Backpack with a bang: Termites commit selfless suicides to release toxins that deter intruders

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The insect world is really amazing and when it comes to organized structure and strict social hierarchy, little beats them. When it comes to, scientists have always known that the colony consist of ‘soldiers’, which defend and protect it against all attackers. But, recent studies and research has shown that when desperate battles take place, the workers not only join in and help the soldiers, but pack special crystal backpacks that detonate and damage intruders with poisonous toxins!

A phenomenon that has been called ‘autothysis”, where an organism commits selfless suicide for the good of the colony has been observed and noted before, but scientists so far believed that the exploding workers were merely distractions on the battlefield. But new findings have revealed that as workers get old and less able to do their job in the colony, they pack in two crystalline backpacks on their exterior shell which hold two separate toxins. If needed, these old workers explode, releasing the two toxins which then combine and attach themselves like an adhesive to the enemy skin.

Not just that, but this toxin then eats away at the intruder’s body and hence makes it easier for soldiers of the colony to finish the job. While how these crystals are synthesized is still not known, the mechanism shows how old workers make themselves useful to the colony. Talk about an organized structure that leaves nothing to waste!

BBC

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