Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 623–633 | Cite as

Plant Size-dependent Escaping Behavior of Gregarious Nymphs of the Desert Locust, Schistocerca gregaria

  • Koutaro Ould Maeno
  • Cyril Piou
  • Sidi Ould Ely
  • Mohamed Abdallahi Ould Babah
  • Benjamin Pélissié
  • Sid’Ahmed Ould Mohamed
  • Mohamed EL Hacen Jaavar
  • Mohamed Etheimine
  • Satoshi Nakamura


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.


Anti-predator strategy escaping behavior density-dependent phase polyphenism gregarious locusts Schistocerca gregaria 



We would like to thank Mrs. Tijany and Lemine for their assistance with the field survey. Thanks are also due to Drs. D. Whitman (Illinois State Univ., U.S.A.), R. T. Ichiki (JIRCAS) and J.-M. Vassal (CIRAD) for encouragement and stimulating discussion. This study was funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion for Science through a research abroad fellowship for PD (No. 128·2011), Inoue Zaidan and Narishige Zoological Science Award to K.O.M and supported by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI) Grant Number 24405027 from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). An anonymous referee significantly improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Koutaro Ould Maeno
    • 1
  • Cyril Piou
    • 3
  • Sidi Ould Ely
    • 1
  • Mohamed Abdallahi Ould Babah
    • 1
  • Benjamin Pélissié
    • 3
  • Sid’Ahmed Ould Mohamed
    • 1
  • Mohamed EL Hacen Jaavar
    • 1
  • Mohamed Etheimine
    • 1
  • Satoshi Nakamura
    • 2
  1. 1.The Mauritanian Desert Locust Centre: Centre National de Lutte Antiacridienne (CNLA)NouakchottMauritania
  2. 2.Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS)TsukubaJapan
  3. 3.CIRAD, UPR Bioagresseurs analyse et maîtrise du risqueMontpellierFrance

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