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Plant size-dependent escaping behavior of gregarious nymphs of the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria

Ould Maeno K., Piou C., Ould Ely S., Ould Babah M.A., Pélissié B., Ould Mohamed S.A., El Hacen Jaavar M., Etheimine M., Nakamura S.. 2013. Journal of Insect Behavior, 26 (5) : p. 623-633.

DOI: 10.1007/s10905-013-9378-4

The present study involves the tracking of marching bands of more than 300,000 gregarious nymphs of the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria, to examine shelter plant preference and how species and size of shelter plants and nymphal group sizes jointly influence the escaping behavior of 4th- and 5th-instar gregarious nymphs. Field observations are conducted during daytime and night-time in the Sahara Desert in Mauritania. Three dominant plant species have been identified at the survey site: Hyoscyamus muticus, Panicum turgidum, and Nucularia perrini. The smallest mean plant size among the three plant species is H. muticus. Gregarious nymphs perch on all the three plant species irrespective of time, and form various sizes of groups ranging from <10 to >10,000 nymphs. Groups of gregarious locusts perching on the plants show either escaping or sheltering behavior in response to an approaching observer. Percentages of nymphal groups showing escaping behavior for H. muticus, P. turgidum and N. perrini are 96.4, 47.6 and 19.5%, respectively. Defensive behavior is not affected by nymphal group size but by species and size of shelter plants. Nymphal groups tend to show escaping behavior when their perching plants are relatively small. No groups escape from their perching plants during night. These results might indicate that gregarious nymphs do not have a strong shelter plant preference and change their defensive behavior depending on species and size of sheltering plants and light conditions.

Mots-clés : schistocerca gregaria; Écologie animale; dimension; plante hôte; comportement; panicum; hyoscyamus; mauritanie; panicum turgidum; nucularia perrini

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