Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 629–641 | Cite as

Sexual Behavior of the Desert Locust During Intra- and Inter-Phase Interactions

  • Y. Golov
  • J. Rillich
  • M. Douek
  • A. R. Harari
  • A. AyaliEmail author


Mating and reproduction behaviors and strategies are fundamental aspects of an organism’s evolutionary and ecological success. In locusts, intra- as well as inter-phase reproductive interactions among gregarious and solitarious locust populations have a major impact on the locust population dynamics. However, practically all previous work on locust sexual behavior has been limited to the gregarious phase. Here we provide a first detailed description of pre-copulatory behavior of solitarious desert locusts. We compare our findings with those of previous reports of pre-copulatory behavior of gregarious locusts, focusing on the behavioral elements that serve in inter-sex signaling and communication. We also studied inter-phase (mixed pairs) reproductive interactions. Solitarious males were found to invest more in pre-copulatory courtship and signaling compared to their gregarious counterparts; and solitarious females played a more dominant role in the inter-sex communication than gregarious females. The solitarious females were also less likely to demonstrate rejection-related behavioral patterns than gregarious females. As a consequence of the particular characteristic behavior of each phase, the most successful among intra- and inter-phase pairs were gregarious males with solitary females. Least successful were solitary males paired with gregarious females, indicating a strong asymmetry in inter-phase reproductive interactions.


Schistocerca gregaria locust density-dependent phase polyphenism sexual behavior reproductive phenotype 



We are grateful to Moshe Guershon for his assistance in the experiments and analysis and for lively discussions. This work was funded by a grant from the Israel Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (891-0277-13). The work in its final stage was partially supported by the German Research Council (DFG; Grant RI 2728/2-1).

Supplementary material

10905_2018_9703_Fig7_ESM.png (619 kb)
Supplementary figure 1

The precopulatory behavioral repertoire of the male (left) and female (right) desert locust in the solitary phase (Mean PO: The probability of an element to occur). The pre-mounting and mounting behavioral elements are listed from step 1 to 7 (S1-S7) and color coded according to relevant body part. Behavioral elements that are shared and mutually exhibited by both sexes are presented in italic bold font. (PNG 618 kb)

10905_2018_9703_MOESM1_ESM.tif (964 kb)
High resolution image (TIF 963 kb)
10905_2018_9703_Fig8_ESM.png (269 kb)
Supplementary figure 2

A comparison of the kinematics of the pre-copulatory behavior of solitary and gregarious male locusts; based on a matrix constructed for all transition probabilities (TP) between behavioral elements in each phase (as detailed in the Methods section and following Golov et al. 2018). The color of the circles representing the different behavioral elements corresponds to the color index used in Fig. S1. Arrows represent the direction of a phase-dependent difference of 15% or more in the TP value between two elements, (red- higher in solitary, black-higher in gregarious locusts). (PNG 268 kb)

10905_2018_9703_MOESM2_ESM.tif (352 kb)
High resolution image (TIF 351 kb)
10905_2018_9703_Fig9_ESM.png (223 kb)
Supplementary figure 3

A comparison of the kinematics of the pre-copulatory behavior of solitary and gregarious female locusts; details as in Fig. S2. (PNG 223 kb)

10905_2018_9703_MOESM3_ESM.tif (315 kb)
High resolution image (TIF 315 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ZoologyTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyVolcani CenterBet DaganIsrael

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