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Anatomical specializations of the gizzard in soil-feeding termites (Termitidae, Apicotermitinae): Taxonomical and functional implications

Johanna Romero Arias, Clément Chevalier, Yves Roisin
Arthropod structure & development 2020 v.57 pp. 100942
Termitidae, arthropods, enzymes, gizzard, midgut, proventriculus, savannas, sclerotization, taxonomy, tropical forests
The anatomy of the workers' digestive tube is essential in taxonomical studies of soil-feeding Apicotermitinae termites, especially in soldierless lineages. Two structures, the mesenteric-proctodeal junction and the enteric valve, have long been important to distinguish genera and species. By contrast, the gizzard (proventriculus) has been almost ignored by taxonomists because of its generally regressed state in soil-feeding termites. In this study, we document in detail for the first time the sclerotized structures and ornamentations in the gizzard in the Apicotermitinae subfamily. We identified two main clusters of species: those without ornamentations and those exhibiting a sclerotized pulvillar armature, which may include spicules or spines of diverse sizes, numbers and dispositions. The latter group comprises the majority of African soldierless species, a widely diverse and dominant group in tropical forests and savannas. We outline the potential role of the anatomy of the gizzard in the taxonomy of Apicotermitinae based on the interspecific anatomical variation of the pulvillar armatures. We suggest that sclerotized ornamentations regulate the flow of food particles and break or lacerate aggregates to facilitate the access of enzymes in the midgut.