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Termites may have high exposure to both pathogenic and competitive fungal species. Previous studies have shown anti-fungal properties of the primary components (α-pinene and limonene) of Nasutitermes frontal glands that are present on soldiers. In this study, the termite Nasutitermes acajutlae (Isoptera: Termitidae) was used to examine if the growth of naturally occurring fungi was inhibited by soldiers, as compared to workers that do not have frontal glands. Soldiers and workers were killed, surface sterilized, and placed on nutrient agar either singly or in combinations with other termites. Time until appearance of fungus and growth of visible fungal colonies was determined. Fungus appeared significantly earlier in cultures with single workers than with single soldiers (P < 0.001). Once fungus appeared, there were no significant differences in growth rate. When worker and/or soldier fluids were combined in one culture, fungal growth appeared later in cultures containing soldiers; growth was significantly slower in colonies with 5 workers and 5 soldiers than in cultures with 5 workers alone; P < 0.001. Finally, growth appeared later in cultures with 5 soldiers than in cultures with one soldier, suggesting a dose-response. Fungi that grew from termites were mostly non-pathogenic, suggesting the anti-fungal properties of soldiers may inhibit both pathogens and competitors.
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