Revisiting stigmergy in light of multi-functional, biogenic, termite structures as communication channel

Sebastian Oberst, Joseph Lai, Richard Martin, Benjamen Halkon, Mohammad Saadatfar, Theo Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Termite mounds are fascinating because of their intriguing composition of numerous geometric shapes and materials. However, little is known about these structures, or of their functionalities. Most research has been on the basic composition of mounds compared with surrounding soils. There has been some targeted research on the thermoregulation and ventilation of the mounds of a few species of fungi-growing termites, which has generated considerable interest from human architecture. Otherwise, research on termite mounds has been scattered, with little work on their explicit properties.

This review is focused on how termites design and build functional structures as nest, nursery and food storage; for thermoregulation and climatisation; as defence, shelter and refuge; as a foraging tool or building material; and for colony communication, either as in indirect communication (stigmergy) or as an information channel essential for direct communication through vibrations (biotremology).

Our analysis shows that systematic research is required to study the properties of these structures such as porosity and material composition. High resolution computer tomography in combination with nonlinear dynamics and methods from computational intelligence may provide breakthroughs in unveiling the secrets of termite behaviour and their mounds. In particular, the examination of dynamic and wave propagation properties of termite-built structures in combination with a detailed signal analysis of termite activities is required to better understand the interplay between termites and their nest as superorganism. How termite structures serve as defence in the form of disguising acoustic and vibration signals from detection by predators, and what role local and global vibration synchronisation plays for building are open questions that need to be addressed to provide insights into how termites utilise materials to thrive in a world of predators and competitors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2522-2534
Number of pages13
JournalComputational and Structural Biotechnology Journal
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Revisiting stigmergy in light of multi-functional, biogenic, termite structures as communication channel'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this