Termites have a navigation system that guides them in time of danger |  DW |  25.09.2022

Termites have a navigation system that guides them in time of danger | DW | 25.09.2022

The GPS navigation system depends on the way it works on a very simple idea to the point of genius, where the signals of three satellites are compared simultaneously, and through the path of the signals, the receiver knows, whether it is a navigation system device, a smartphone or a running watch, on where we are in it. If a satellite signal takes a relatively longer time, we are farther from the target, and if the signal comes in faster, we are close to it.

According to the model of this particular system, termites protect themselves. Instead of satellite signals, insects pick up on Earth-shaking signals.

Hearing with the legs instead of the ear

A study conducted by the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, showed that the termite “Markotermis natalensis”, which lives in South Africa, has very sensitive sensors located on its legs specialized in determining the direction of vibrations that occur in the ground, and the study was published in the journal “Journal of Experimental Biology

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According to the study, the time difference between the signals is one ten thousandth of a second, but it is also a sufficient period for these insects to be able to protect themselves from the imminent dangers. In order to discover this fact, the researchers put the termite soldiers on a space of only one millimeter, separating two flats, so that the insects’ left legs were running on one flat and the right on the parallel plane. After that, a kind of vibration was created through the speakers on the two planes, but with a time difference of no more than one ten thousandth of a second. The result: the termite soldiers immediately headed without delay to the flat that shook first.

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Communication between individuals

Previous studies of the same university on the communication channels between individuals of this type of termites showed that these insects usually build corridors that extend for long meters linking insect hills and food sites in their surroundings. If the ant soldiers feel threatened, they hit the ground with their heads to cause vibrations that warn the rest of the ants. This discovery enables to decipher the mystery that has puzzled scientists for a long time, about how insects know the correct direction to escape when in danger.


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