Hemimetabolous genomes reveal molecular basis of termite eusociality

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


  • Mark C. Harrison
  • Evelien Jongepier
  • Hugh M. Robertson
  • Nicolas Arning
  • Tristan Bitard-Feildel
  • Hsu Chao
  • Christopher P. Childers
  • Huyen Dinh
  • Harshavardhan Doddapaneni
  • Shannon Dugan
  • Johannes Gowin
  • Carolin Greiner
  • Yi Han
  • Daniel S.T. Hughes
  • Ann Kathrin Huylmans
  • Carsten Kemena
  • Lukas P.M. Kremer
  • Sandra L. Lee
  • Alberto Lopez-Ezquerra
  • Ludovic Mallet
  • Jose M. Monroy-Kuhn
  • Annabell Moser
  • Shwetha C. Murali
  • Donna M. Muzny
  • Saria Otani
  • Maria Dolors Piulachs
  • Monica Poelchau
  • Jiaxin Qu
  • Florentine Schaub
  • Ayako Wada-Katsumata
  • Kim C. Worley
  • Qiaolin Xie
  • Guillem Ylla
  • Richard A. Gibbs
  • Coby Schal
  • Stephen Richards
  • Xavier Belles
  • Judith Korb
  • Erich Bornberg-Bauer

Around 150 million years ago, eusocial termites evolved from within the cockroaches, 50 million years before eusocial Hymenoptera, such as bees and ants, appeared. Here, we report the 2-Gb genome of the German cockroach, Blattella germanica, and the 1.3-Gb genome of the drywood termite Cryptotermes secundus. We show evolutionary signatures of termite eusociality by comparing the genomes and transcriptomes of three termites and the cockroach against the background of 16 other eusocial and non-eusocial insects. Dramatic adaptive changes in genes underlying the production and perception of pheromones confirm the importance of chemical communication in the termites. These are accompanied by major changes in gene regulation and the molecular evolution of caste determination. Many of these results parallel molecular mechanisms of eusocial evolution in Hymenoptera. However, the specific solutions are remarkably different, thus revealing a striking case of convergence in one of the major evolutionary transitions in biological complexity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)557-566
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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