, Volume 138, Issue 2, pp 312-319
Date: 12 Nov 2003

Behavioral thermoregulation in the migratory locust: a therapy to overcome fungal infection

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Abstract

We examined under laboratory conditions the thermopreference of the migratory locust, Locusta migratoria migratorioides, following infection by the entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae var. acridum and its influence on mycosis. Infected locusts raised their body temperature more frequently than healthy conspecifics through selection of high temperatures in a heat gradient. Thermoregulation did not, however, alter the frequency of feeding events nor the amount of food eaten by infected L. migratoria. A thermoregulation regime of a minimum of 4 h/day substantially increased survival of inoculated insects (by 85%). However, the therapeutic effect decreased when thermoregulation was delayed following inoculation of the pathogen. Thermoregulation reduced locust mortality but did not completely eliminate the fungus from infected hosts; the fungus grew and killed the insects when thermoregulation was interrupted. We suggest that periodic, short bouts of thermoregulation, when performed from the onset of infection and for an extended period of time, are sufficient to provide a therapeutic effect to infected hosts. Such thermoregulatory capacity of locusts may limit the potential of fungal pathogens as biological control agents under certain ecological conditions.