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Butting Heads in the Termite Mound

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Butting behavior among workers in a colony of termites (Cryptotermes secundus), which increases when queens are removed. Butting is associated with reproductive dominance, and workers that go on to replace the king or queen display more butting than workers that do not change caste. Using the frequency of butting behavior as a behavioral proxy for queen replacement, and combining this with studies of RNA interference, Korb et al. were able to identify the single gene responsible for the reproductive division of labor between queens and workers in this social insect species.

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