Eusocial insects exhibit reproductive division of labor, in which only a fraction of colony members differentiate into reproductives. In termites, reproductives of both sexes are present in a colony and constantly engaged in reproduction. It has been suggested that the sex ratio of reproductives is maintained by social interactions. The presence of reproductives is known to inhibit the additional differentiation of same-sex reproductives, while it promotes the differentiation of opposite-sex reproductives. In this study, using the damp-wood termite Hodotermopsis sjostedti, physiological effects of male/female reproductives on the differentiation of supplementary reproductives (neotenics) were examined. The results showed that the only male-neotenic condition, i.e., the presence of male neotenics in the absence of female neotenics, accelerated the neotenic differentiation from female workers (i.e., pseudergates). Under this condition, the rise of juvenile hormone (JH) titer was repressed in females, and the application of a JH analog inhibited the female neotenic differentiation, indicating that the low JH titer leads to rapid differentiation. Thus, the only male-neotenic condition that actively promotes reproductive differentiation by manipulating physiological condition of females is suggested to be a mechanism underlying sexual asymmetry in reproductive function, which may lead the female-biased sex allocation of reproductives.
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