Eusocial insects organize their colonies based on division of labor and caste differentiation, in which caste-specific morphologies are sculpted during postembryonic development. In the differentiation between reproductive and sterile castes, characteristics related to mating and reproduction are developed in reproductives, and degenerated in neuters, although little is known about the developmental regulations during the differentiation. In some species of termites, a sensory protrusion at the posterior end of the abdomen, the stylus, is known to disappear in female reproductives. In the present study, we performed anatomical and histological analyses in the damp-wood termite Hodotermopsis sjostedti to elucidate the developmental process underlying the disappearance of the stylus during neotenic and alate differentiation. Although it was first hypothesized that styli were hidden beneath the enlarged seventh sternite, our observation results found out that the styli were completely lost in reproductive females. Further histological observations revealed that the stylus disappearance was not accomplished by degeneration process; rather, styli were separated from the abdomen and discarded with the exoskeleton (exuviae) during the molt into the reproductive caste. This phenomenon in which live tissues are discarded through developmental processes is suggested to be a case of abscission, as seen in plant leaves.
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Vol. 36 • No. 5