Termites (Blattodea: Isoptera) have evolved specialized defensive strategies for colony protection. Alarm communication enables workers to escape threats while soldiers are recruited to the source of disturbance. Here, we study the vibroacoustic and chemical alarm communication in the wood roach Cryptocercus and in 20 termite species including seven of the nine termite families, all life-types, and all feeding and nesting habits. Our multidisciplinary approach shows that vibratory alarm signals represent an ethological synapomorphy of termites and Cryptocercus. In contrast, chemical alarms have evolved independently in several cockroach groups and at least twice in termites. Vibroacoustic alarm signaling patterns are the most complex in Neoisoptera, in which they are often combined with chemical signals. The alarm characters correlate to phylogenetic position, food type and hardness, foraging area size, and nesting habits. Overall, species of Neoisoptera have developed the most sophisticated communication system amongst termites, potentially contributing to their ecological success.
Sillam-Dussès, D., Jandák, V., Stiblik, P. et al. Alarm communication predates eusociality in termites. Commun Biol 6, 83 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-023-04438-5