Senior Lecturer in Theoretical Biology


Life Sciences
Roehampton University
London SW15 5PJ


andrea.perna at

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The form of social insect nests

fragments of different termite nests Termite nests have complex and different forms, ranging from structures mainly composed of galleries and corridors, to bubble-like or sponge-like structures, to extremely regular structures, with floors and ramps, to convoluted surfaces used to cultivate mushrooms.

These structures are characteristic of the species that produced them; however, we also find strong analogies between structures produced by phylogenetically unrelated taxa, suggesting that behavioural rules coded in the genome interplay with physical constraints imposed by the building material and environement.

Computer tomography

X-ray tomography scannerA nest on the X-ray tomography scanner Computer tomography is a powerful tool for the characterisation of complex 3-D structures.

The internal transportation networks

One approach is to consider nests as 3D networks, with nodes (chambers and galleries crossroads) and edges (galleries) that can thus be described by graphs.
This description gives access to the tools developed in the field of graph theory to analyze the material and information flow, and to study the efficiency and robustness of these communication networks in relation to their topological and geometrical properties.
In addition, it becomes possible to perform direct comparisons with other natural and artificial communication networks.

Cubitermes nestCubitermes nestCubitermes termite nestNetwork of galleries inside termite nest

Related scientific publications

See also