In remote, coastal parts of Japan, scientists have discovered that female termites can actually reproduce without the need of mating with male mates.
Some glyptotermes nakajimai termites, which populate pieces of dead wood in Japan, can produce an offspring without males, according to a new study produced by researchers from the University of Sydney and Kyoto University.
The study, which was published in the journal BMC Biology, explains that vast majority of the species does reproduce sexually – stating the importance of a female and male termite during the crucial mating process to reproduce.
“Our paper is the first demonstration that termites can do away with males completely by the evolution of an asexual lineage, and get along fine just with females,” Dr. Toshihisa Yashiro, from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney, has told Newsweek.
The team of researchers studied mature colonies of 10 termite populations in Japan. They examined the spermathecae, which is an organ where the sperm of male termites are stored inside the females. They found out that the sacks were empty, but the females are still able to produce regardless.
This means that the female termites were reproducing parthenogenetically, which means the embryo develops without the need of it being fertilized.
“As only females are required to reproduce, the quirk of asexuality enables all-female populations to grow at twice the rate of sexual populations,” Yashiro said.
Glyptotermes nakajimai now joins ants and honey bees in the list of animal societies, wherein males are now becoming obsolete. The authors noted that it females are always the workers in both ants and bees, while males “do not exhibit any helping behaviors.”
“Our findings demonstrate that males are not essential for the maintenance of animal societies in which they previously played an active social role, providing important insights into the evolutionary significance of sex and the impact of males on animal societies,” Yashiro explained.
“However, the mating systems and the social structures of almost all termite species are still to be scrutinized. We will uncover their societies, which will provide us findings beyond our imagination,” he added.