Article révisé par les pairs
Résumé : While termite neotenic reproductives, when present, are usually few and confined within the deepest parts of the colony, in Prorhinotermes species they are often abundant and may accompany soldiers and pseudergates during foraging trips. This suggests that such neotenics may act as dispersers, provided they are capable of founding new colonial units without help from pseudergates. Experiments on P. canalifrons showed that, although most isolated pairs of neotenics quickly died, groups of 12 neotenics were able to reconstitute a complete colony, with a typical caste composition, after 16 months. No down regulation of the number of neotenics occurred. We conclude that the specialization of pseudergates and neotenics towards specific roles is low in Prorhinotermes, compared with other termites. This is consistent with the alleged plesiomorphic caste and life history patterns encountered in this genus. A high propensity for the selfish differentiation of self-sufficient neotenics from little-specialized pseudergates in Prorhinotermes can be understood as an adaptation to very unstable habitats.