A rather strange species of nasute termite

Some of us may be familiar with the strange nesting habits of certain animals and invertebrates; termites are no exception. Recently, I came across what appears to be a rather strange species of termite which I have never encountered before. This species of termite is of a nasute variety, and looks to be subterranean in nesting habit.

Nest entrance

Above – Just one of the entrances to the nest, which lies deep underground

What makes this nasute termite a bit strange though, was its nest has many large entrance holes which may resemble certain ant or spider species. The entrance holes are scattered across a fairly wide area (several square meters) from which the termites stream out at night and early morning in their daily quest to forage for food (fallen plant matter like dried twigs and leaves, and possibly lichen).

large entrance tunnels

Above – The entrance tunnels are huge in comparison to the termites themselves.

Here is the strangest part – The soldiers come in 4 variants, which is something I have not seen before. The polymorphic soldiers come in two colors and two sizes, while the workers appear to be of a single size and color (with apparent slight variations in some individuals). In appearance, the black colored soldiers resemble Longipeditermes longipes, while at first glance, the orange-brown colored soldiers could well resemble a different species altogether – such is the difference. Normally, termites display variance between their worker and soldier castes, with workers having a different color from the soldiers, but for this species, the soldier caste itself has four variants!

polymorphic termites

Above – The pronounced polymorphism in these termites may lead one to think there are two different species here.

two toned termites

Above – These termites exist in two different colors.

Closeup view of soldiers

Above – Two major soldiers standing side by side. The head capsule of the black variant could be slightly more elongated, if compared to the orange variant.

This species of nasute termite was encountered only once in mountain forest at around 1200 meters in altitude, and is probably not a common species. Any possible help on the identification would be welcome.

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