U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


Main content area

The oral gland, a new exocrine organ of termites

Jiří Synek, Tereza Beránková, Petr Stiblik, Jitka Pflegerová, Pierre D. Akama, Thomas Bourguignon, David Sillam-Dussès, Jan Šobotník
Arthropod structure & development 2019 v.51 pp. 32-36
Rhinotermitidae, Termitidae, abdomen, arthropods, axons, exocrine glands, head, legs, mouth, pharynx, pheromones, secretion, smooth endoplasmic reticulum, thorax, wood
Termites have a rich set of exocrine glands. These glands are located all over the body, appearing in the head, thorax, legs and abdomen. Here, we describe the oral gland, a new gland formed by no more than a few tens of Class I secretory cells. The gland is divided into two secretory regions located just behind the mouth, on the dorsal and ventral side of the pharynx, respectively. The dominant secretory organelle is a smooth endoplasmic reticulum. Secretion release is under direct control of axons located within basal invaginations of the secretory cells. The secretion is released through a modified porous cuticle located at the mouth opening. We confirmed the presence of the oral gland in workers and soldiers of several wood- and soil-feeding species of Rhinotermitidae and Termitidae, suggesting a broader distribution of the oral gland among termites. The oral gland is the smallest exocrine gland described in termites so far. We hypothesise that the oily secretion can either ease the passage of food or serve as a primer pheromone.