The Dominance Hierarchy of Wood-Eating Termites from China

Theodore A. Evans, Boris Dodji Kasseney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Competition is a fundamental process in ecology and helps to determine dominance hierarchies. Competition and dominance hierarchies have been little investigated in wood-eating termites, despite the necessary traits of similar resources, and showing spatial and temporal overlap. Competition and dominance between five species of wood-eating termites found in Huangzhou, China, was investigated in three laboratory experiments of aggression and detection, plus a year-long field survey of termite foraging activity. Dominance depended on body size, with largest species winning overwhelmingly in paired contests with equal numbers of individuals, although the advantage was reduced in paired competitions with equal biomass. The termites could detect different species from used filter papers, as larger species searched through paper used by smaller species, and smaller species avoided papers used by larger species. The largest species maintained activity all year, but in low abundance, whereas the second largest species increased activity in summer, and the smallest species increased their activity in winter. The termite species displayed a dominance hierarchy based on fighting ability, with a temporal change in foraging to avoid larger, more dominant species. The low abundance of the largest species, here Macrotermes barneyi, may be a function of human disturbance, which allows subordinate species to increase. Thus, competitive release may explain the increase in abundance of pest species, such as Coptotermes formosanus, in highly modified areas, such as urban systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number210
Number of pages16
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


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