Low radiodensity μCT scans to reveal detailed morphology of the termite leg and its subgenual organ

Travers M. Sansom, Sebastian Oberst, Adrian Richter, Joseph C.S. Lai, Mohammad Saadatfar, Manuela Nowotny, Theodore A. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Termites sense tiny substrate-borne vibrations through subgenual organs (SGOs) located within their legs' tibiae. Little is known about the SGOs' structure and physical properties. We applied high-resolution (voxel size 0.45 μm) micro-computed tomography (μCT) to Australian termites, Coptotermes lacteus and Nasutitermes exitiosus (Hill) to test two staining techniques. We compared the effectiveness of a single stain of Lugol's iodine solution (LS) to LS followed by Phosphotungstic acid (PTA) solutions (1% and 2%). We then present results of a soldier of Nasutitermes exitiosus combining μCT with LS + 2%PTS stains and scanning electron microscopy to exemplify the visualisation of their SGOs. The termite's SGO due to its approximately oval shape was shown to have a maximum diameter of 60 μm and a minimum of 48 μm, covering 60 ± 4% of the leg's cross-section and 90.4 ± 5% of the residual haemolymph channel. Additionally, the leg and residual haemolymph channel cross-sectional area decreased around the SGO by 33% and 73%, respectively. We hypothesise that this change in cross-sectional area amplifies the vibrations for the SGO. Since SGOs are directly connected to the cuticle, their mechanical properties and the geometric details identified here may enable new approaches to determine how termites sense micro-vibrations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101191
JournalArthropod Structure and Development
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


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