As promised in my last post, here are some termites where the soldiers are much larger than the workers. Large is relative though, since although they are twice the size of the workers, these soldiers still only measure one centimeter.
Based on Hogue’s Latin American Insects and subsequent web searches, I believe these are termites in the genus Neocapritermes, which he refers to in an illustration as crooked jaw termites. The name certainly fits. My first thoughts after seeing one of these soldiers was that it was deformed.
After seeing a few more, my thoughts turned to wondering what purpose those jaws might serve. I thought they kind of looked like bulldozers, and that perhaps they’d just push and perhaps flip away intruders.
The size of the head suggested there were large muscles powering the jaws though, so I wasn’t quite convinced of that.
Here’s a closer look at the mouthparts.
Even the workers are interesting with their transparent bodies.
You can see their digestive track and perhaps some other organs.
So what exactly are the jaws used for? See for yourself in this video, as a soldier rather effortlessly flicks away an ant. The action is around the 20 second mark.
by Charles L. Hogue