Antifungal activity in thrips soldiers suggests a dual role for this caste

Christine Turnbull, Holly Caravan*, Thomas Chapman, David Nipperess, Siobhan Dennison, Michael Schwarz, Andrew Beattie

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)


    The social insect soldier is perhaps the most widely known caste, because it often exhibits spectacular weapons, such as highly enlarged jaws or reinforced appendages, which are used to defend the colony against enemies ranging in size from wasps to anteaters. We examined the function of the enlarged forelimbs of soldiers (both male and female) of the eusocial, gall-inhabiting insect Kladothrips intermedius, and discovered that they have little impact on their ability to repel the specialized invading thrips Koptothrips species. While the efficacy of the enlarged forelimb appears equivocal, we show that soldiers secrete strong antifungal compounds capable of controlling the specialized insect fungal pathogen, Cordyceps bassiana. Our data suggest that these thrips soldiers have evolved in response to selection by both macro-and micro-organisms. While it is unknown whether specialized fungal pathogens have been major selective agents in the evolution of the soldier caste in general, they were probably present when sociality first evolved and may have been the primordial enemies of social insects. This journal is

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)526-529
    Number of pages4
    JournalBiology Letters
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2012


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