Biology Letters
Restricted accessEvolutionary biology

Evidence for genetically influenced caste determination in phylogenetically diverse species of the termite genus Reticulitermes

    A number of social insect species have recently been shown to have genetically influenced caste determination (GCD), challenging the conventional view that caste determination should be strictly environmental. To date, GCD has been found in phylogenetically isolated species; examples of GCD being present in multiple species of a genus are lacking. Through crossing experiments of neotenic (juvenile) reproductives, we have recently provided the first evidence for a royal versus worker GCD in the termite Reticulitermes speratus. To elucidate whether this system is more widespread, we performed crossing experiments using three additional Reticulitermes species. Offspring caste and sex ratios were found to be highly similar to those found previously in R. speratus, raising the possibility that GCD was present in an ancestral lineage of Reticulitermes, and subsequently maintained throughout several episodes of speciation.