Behavioural phase change in the Australian plague locust, Chortoicetes terminifera, is triggered by tactile stimulation of the antennae.

School of Biological Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia.
Journal of insect physiology (Impact Factor: 2.24). 05/2010; 56(8):937-42. DOI: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2010.04.023
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Density-dependent phase polyphenism is a defining characteristic of the paraphyletic group of acridid grasshoppers known as locusts. The cues and mechanisms associated with crowding that induce behavioural gregarization are best understood in the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria, and involve a combination of sensory inputs from the head (visual and olfactory) and mechanostimulation of the hind legs, acting via a transient increase in serotonin in the thoracic ganglia. Since behavioural gregarization has apparently arisen independently multiple times within the Acrididae, the important question arises as to whether the same mechanisms have been recruited each time. Here we explored the roles of visual, olfactory and tactile stimulation in the induction of behavioural gregarization in the Australian plague locust, Chortoicetes terminifera. We show that the primary gregarizing input is tactile stimulation of the antennae, with no evidence for an effect of visual and olfactory stimulation or tactile stimulation of the hind legs. Our results show that convergent behavioural responses to crowding have evolved employing different sites of sensory input in the Australian plague locust and the desert locust.

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    ABSTRACT: Tactile stimuli provide animals with important information about the environment, including physical features such as obstacles, and biologically relevant cues related to food, mates, hosts and predators. The antennae, the principal sensory organs of insects, house an array of sensory receptors for olfaction, gustation, audition, nociception, balance, stability, graviception, static electric fields, and thermo-, hygro- and mechanoreception. The antennae, being the anteriormost sensory appendages, play a prominent role in social interactions with conspecifics that involve primarily chemosensory and tactile stimuli. In the German cockroach (Blattella germanica) antennal contact during social interactions modulates brain-regulated juvenile hormone production, ultimately accelerating the reproductive rate in females. The primary sensory modality mediating this social facilitation of reproduction is antennal mechanoreception. We investigated the key elements, or stimulus features, of antennal contact that socially facilitate reproduction in B. germanica females. Using motor-driven antenna mimics, we assessed the physiological responses of females to artificial tactile stimulation. Our results indicate that tactile stimulation with artificial materials, some deviating significantly from the native antennal morphology, can facilitate female reproduction. However, none of the artificial stimuli matched the effects of social interactions with a conspecific female.
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 03/2014; 281(1783):20140325. · 5.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Phenotypic plasticity allows animals to modify their behavior, physiology, and morphology to adapt to environmental change. The global pest, the desert locust, shows two extreme phenotypes; a solitarious phase that is relatively harmless and a gregarious phase that forms swarms and causes extensive agricultural and economic damage. In the field, environmental conditions can drive isolated animals into crowded populations and previous studies have identified the biogenic amine serotonin as a key determinant of this transition. Here we take an integrated approach to investigate the neurochemical, physiological, and behavioral correlates defined by a laboratory based paradigm that mimics facets of swarm break down as gregarious locusts become isolated. Following isolation there was an increased propensity of locusts to avoid conspecifics, and show a reduced locomotion. Changes in choice behavior occurred within 1 h of isolation although isolation-related changes progressed with increased isolation time. Isolation was accompanied by changes in the levels of the biogenic amines dopamine, octopamine, and serotonin within the CNS within 1 h. Dopamine levels were higher in isolated animals and we focused on the role played by this transmitter in synaptic changes that may underpin solitarization. Dopamine reduced synaptic efficacy at a key central synapse between campaniform sensilla (CS) and a fast extensor tibiae motor neuron that is involved in limb movement. We also show that dopamine injection into the haemocoel was sufficient to induce solitarious-like behavior in otherwise gregarious locusts. Further, injection of a dopamine antagonist, fluphenazine, into isolated locusts induced gregarious-like behavior. This highlights that dopaminergic modulation plays an important role in the plasticity underpinning phase transition and sets a context to deepen the understanding of the complementary role that distinct neuromodulators play in polyphenism in locusts.
    Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. 11/2014; 8:371.
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    ABSTRACT: Desert locusts can change reversibly between solitarious and gregarious phases, which differ considerably in behaviour, morphology and physiology. The two phases show many behavioural differences including both overall levels of activity and the degree to which they are attracted or repulsed by conspecifics. Solitarious locusts perform infrequent bouts of locomotion characterised by a slow walking pace, groom infrequently and actively avoid other locusts. Gregarious locusts are highly active with a rapid walking pace, groom frequently and are attracted to conspecifics forming cohesive migratory bands as nymphs and/or flying swarms as adults. The sole factor driving the onset of gregarization is the presence of conspecifics. In several previous studies concerned with the mechanism underlying this transformation we have used an aggregate measure of behavioural phase state, Pgreg, derived from logistic regression analysis, which combines and weights several behavioural variables to characterise solitarious and gregarious behaviour. Using this approach we have analysed the time course of behavioural change, the stimuli that induce gregarization and the key role of serotonin in mediating the transformation. Following a recent critique that suggested that using Pgreg may confound changes in general activity with genuine gregarization we have performed a meta-analysis examining the time course of change in the individual behaviours that we use to generate Pgreg. We show that the forced crowding of solitarious locusts, tactile stimulation of the hind femora, and the short-term application of serotonin each induce concerted changes in not only locomotion-related variables but also grooming frequency and attraction to other locusts towards those characteristic of long-term gregarious locusts. This extensive meta-analysis supports and extends our previous conclusions that solitarious locusts undergo a rapid behavioural gregarization upon receiving appropriate stimulation for a few hours that is mediated by serotonin, at the end of which their behaviour is largely indistinguishable from locusts that have been in the gregarious phase their entire lives.
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Jun 1, 2014