Evolutionary Edge for Male-Male Pairing: Homosexual Termite


According to a latest research conducted at Kyoto University, lone male termites that do not happen to find a female mate often end up forming homosexual pair. Such pairing gives male Japanese termites better chances of survival. Just like a couple they are seen making nests and sharing resources.

However, they do not hesitate in raiding a heterosexual termite’s nest, slaying the male member so that any one member of the homosexual pair can get a chance to mate with the widowed female termite, adds insect ecologist and lead author Nobuaki Mizumoto. This research backs a theory that says such homosexual pairing in invertebrates gives an evolutionary edge.

Until now, scientists believed that such homosexual pairing resulted because of misrecognition of males as females. But the findings from the research showed that homosexual pairing is not a case of mistaken identity. The termites are seen to behave differently with males and females and when pairing up with a male they clearly do not seem to misrecognize males for females. Therefore, such pairing, which is very common, definitely gives some sort of benefit.

Researchers observed that lone male termites find it difficult to survive on their own, but homosexual males do well together and survive for longer. Same sex pairing gives advantage in events of female hunt when danger of being hunted increases.

Researchers closely observed behavior of same sex termites pair and saw them making nest together similarly to male-female pairs. Once heterosexual pair finishes making nests and starts digging tunnels, a homosexual pair trespass through the tunnels to raid and butchering the male of the heterosexual nest. Upon genetic examination of the successive new born revealed that one of the raiding males mated with the female successfully.

Such same sex pairing may not be the best option, as only one of the male termites gets the chance to mate when a female is found. Nevertheless, it definitely gives the best chance of survival to single termites until a female is found.

[Kyoto University]

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