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J Exp Biol. 2010 Oct 1;213(Pt 19):3378-87. doi: 10.1242/jeb.046367.

Control of tumbling during the locust jump.

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Department of Biology, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA.


Locust can jump precisely to a target, yet they can also tumble during the trajectory. We propose two mechanisms that would allow the locust to control tumbling during the jump. The first is that prior to the jump, locusts adjust the pitch of their body to move the center of mass closer to the intended thrust vector. The second is that contraction of the dorsolongitudinal muscles during the jump will produce torques that counter the torque produced by thrust. We found that locusts increased their take-off angle as the initial body pitch increased, and that little tumbling occurred for jumps that observed this relationship. Simulations of locust jumping demonstrated that a pitch versus take-off angle relationship that minimized tumbling in simulated jumps was similar to the relationship observed in live locusts. Locusts were strongly biased to pitch head-upward, and performed dorsiflexions far more often than ventral flexions. The direction and magnitude of tumbling could be controlled in simulations by adjusting the tension in the dorsolongitudinal muscles. These mechanisms allowed the simulations to match the data from the live animals. Control of tumbling was also found to influence the control of jump elevation. The bias to pitch head-upwards may have an evolutionary advantage when evading a predator and so make control of tumbling important for the locust.

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