Aspects fonctionnels et morphogenèse des nids de termites et de fourmis : effets de la température et de l'humidité

Abstract : For many social insects, the nest is a central element for the colony's survival. A presumed function of the nest is to ensure protection against climatic fluctuations of the environment. One has to ask how the nests achieve to regulate such abiotic factors, and whether this factors modulate the construction behavior and thus the architecture of the nests. For all these questions only partial and fragmentary answers exist in the literature. The first aim of this thesis was to investigate the putative thermo regulating property of termite nests. We focused on two termite species found in the Brazilian cerrado: Cornitermes cumulans and Procornitermes araujoi. These two sympatric species both build nests consisting of an hypogeous and of an epigeous part. If these structures might seem similar, the internal architecture and the nest composition are quite different. We first aim to investigate whether these differences between the two structures influence their thermo regulating property. To do so, we monitored the temperatures inside the nests of the two species and we proposed a methodology to study the heat diffusion dynamics inside the structures. We also monitored the relative humidity, a factor that is essential for termite survival but that proved to be more complicated to understand. To complement this field work, we tested the survival of the two termite species in different conditions of temperature and relative humidity to test whether they present some adaptations to resist to such conditions related to their living environment. The second aim of this thesis was to study the effects of abiotic factors and more precisely temperature on the nest construction process. In fact, abiotic factors are known to affect insects' behavior, as much on the individual than on the collective level. Here we used the ant Lasius niger in which the construction behavior had already have modelled. This really common species of the northern hemisphere build a nest also made of an hypogeous and of an epigeous part. In the lab, the workers quickly build pillars that they covered by caps and thereby established the first basis of the structure. We performed an experiment where we constrained ants to build under different temperature conditions to test the effect of this abiotic factor on the emerging architecture. It is then possible to establish a quantitative and qualitative description of the architecture by scanning the structure thanks to a surface scanner or with X-ray tomography. Before studying the construction behavior, we first did an experiment to study the ants thermal preferendum. We found temperature regulation in the nest to follow the common heat equation where architecture only modifies the speed of heat diffusion in the nest. The studied environmental factors had complex effects on termite survival, ant distribution and the emerging ant architectures, the latter in agreement with the predictions of the construction model. However, we are still far from a coherent understanding of the interplay between the regulation of abiotic factors by the nest, their effect on his architecture architecture, and their influence on the animal's life history parameters.
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Rémi Gouttefarde. Aspects fonctionnels et morphogenèse des nids de termites et de fourmis : effets de la température et de l'humidité. Biodiversité et Ecologie. Université Paul Sabatier - Toulouse III, 2017. Français. ⟨NNT : 2017TOU30357⟩. ⟨tel-02276029⟩

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