Table of colony compositions and tables of statistical results from Who goes there? Social surveillance as a response to intergroup conflict in a primitive termite

Intergroup conflict has been suggested as a major force shaping the evolution of social behaviour in animal groups. A long-standing hypothesis is that groups at risk of attack by rivals should become more socially cohesive, to increase resilience or protect against future attack. However, it is usually unclear how cohesive behaviours (such as grooming or social contacts) function in intergroup conflict. We performed an experiment in which we exposed young colonies of the dampwood termite, Zootermopsis angusticollis, to a rival colony while preventing physical combat with a permeable barrier. We measured social contacts, allogrooming and trophallaxis before, during and after exposure. Termites showed elevated rates of social contacts during exposure to a rival compared to the pre-exposure phase, but rates returned to pre-exposure levels after colonies were separated for 9 days. There was evidence of a delayed effect of conflict on worker trophallaxis. We suggest that social contacts during intergroup conflict function as a form of social surveillance, to check individual identity and assess colony resource holding potential. Intergroup conflict may increase social cohesion in both the short and the long term, improving the effectiveness of groups in competition.