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J Insect Physiol. 2013 Jan;59(1):101-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2012.10.018. Epub 2012 Oct 30.

Behavioral phase shift in nymphs of the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria: special attention to attraction/avoidance behaviors and the role of serotonin.

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Locust Research Laboratory, National Institute of Agro-biological Sciences at Ohwashi, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8634, Japan.


Schistocerca gregaria exhibits a phase-specific behavior in response to crowding. Nymphs occurring at low population densities (solitarious phase) tend to avoid one another, whereas those occurring at high population densities (gregarious phase) are attracted to one another. This study examined how this attraction/avoidance behavior changed after isolation or crowding. The behavior of the test nymphs was assessed by determining their positioning with respect to a stimulus cup, which contained 12 gregarious nymphs, placed at one end of an elliptical arena and an empty cup placed at the opposite end. Gregarious (crowd-reared) nymphs were most frequently observed close to the stimulus cup, whereas solitarious (isolated-reared) nymphs tended to avoid it. This tendency was easily changed by exposing the nymphs to isolation or crowding. However, contrary to a previously reported conclusion that behavioral gregarization occurs in 4-8 h of crowding, the nymphs required at least 3 days to achieve a significant change in the attraction/avoidance behavior in either direction, from solitarious to gregarious or the converse. The discrepancies between the present study and previous studies appear to result from the different behaviors observed. The present study focused on the attraction/avoidance behavior that is most likely the most important element in the gregarization and solitarization processes, whereas other studies used a mixture of various activity-related behaviors. No evidence was obtained for a trans-generational accumulation in the attraction/avoidance behaviors. Serotonin, a biogenic amine that is suggested by others to be involved in behavioral phase changes in S. gregaria, had no influence on this behavior or body color when injected into the solitarious nymphs.

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