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Curr Biol. 2010 Jan 12;20(1):86-91. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.10.079. Epub 2009 Dec 31.

Visual targeting of forelimbs in ladder-walking locusts.

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Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK.


Accurate limb placement helps animals and robots to walk on substrates that are uneven or contain gaps. Visual information is important in controlling limb placement in walking mammals but has received little attention in insects. We investigated whether desert locusts walking along a horizontal ladder use vision to control limb placement. High-speed video analysis showed that locusts targeted their front legs to specific rungs in the absence of any previous contact, suggesting that visual information alone is sufficient for targeting single steps. Comparison between the proportions of missed steps before and after monocular occlusion showed that monocular visual information was used to place the ipsilateral but not the contralateral front leg. Accurate placement also depended upon mechanosensory inputs from the antennae and proprioceptive feedback from the ipsilateral but not the contralateral forelimb. Locusts also compensated for the loss of inputs to one eye by altering their stepping pattern. Changing the rung position after initiation of a step showed that targeting of the front leg depends on visual information acquired before but not during a step. The trajectory was only modified after missing the rung. Our data show that locusts walking in environments where footholds are limited use visual and mechanosensory information to place their front legs.

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