Find out why locusts form destructive herds

Lonely men and women. Credit: Keren Levi

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have discovered that when a host joins a group, the lonely locust microbiota changes significantly. A bacterium called Weissella, which is almost completely absent in the lonely locust microbiome, predominates during the herd. In addition, specially developed mathematical models show that herds offer potential evolutionary benefits to these bacteria, allowing them to spread and infect large numbers of locusts. Researchers say, “It’s not a clear proof that these bacteria swarm and move locusts, but a new hypothesis that microbiota, especially weicera bacteria, play an important role in locust induction. I would suggest: “Coagulation behavior. I hope this new understanding will facilitate the development of new means of combating locust outbreaks. This is for countless people, animals and plants around the world. It’s still a big threat. ”

The new research is based on interdisciplinary collaboration of experts from a variety of disciplines, including insect behavior and physiology, microbiology, and computational models of evolution. This project was led by Professor Amir Ayari and his PhD. Omer Lavy, a student of the Department of Animal Science at TAU’s George S. Wise School of Life Sciences. Participants included Professor Lilac Hadani, Professor Ohad Lewin Epstein, Professor Jonathan Bendett, and Professor Uri Gofna of the Schmnis Graduate School of Biomedical Cancer, all of the Wise Faculty of Plant Science and Food Security. I did. They were joined by Dr. Elan Gefen of Haifa Oranim University.The paper was published in Environmental microbiology..

Professor Ayari explains:Locust From Bible times to the present, swarms that destroy all crops along the way have been the main cause of famine. Over the past three years, most of Africa, India and Pakistan have been hit hard by locust outbreaks, and climate change is expected to exacerbate the problem. Flocks of locusts are usually formed when lonely and harmless individual locusts gather and begin to move. However, the cause of this behavior is largely unknown, and no effective solution has yet been found. Following recent studies, we have shown that the microbial flora can influence the social behavior of the host and hypothesized that the locust microbial flora may play a role in their aggregation behavior. “

To test their hypothesis, researchers examined the gut microbiota of laboratory-reared locusts when lonely-reared individuals joined a large group of about 200 locusts. I found a big change.

Omer Lavy said, “The most important change is Bacteria Called Weissera, almost completely absent Microbial flora Of lonely locusts that became dominant shortly after their host joined the group. “

After that, the researchers Mathematical model It was used to analyze the conditions under which induction of locust aggregation provides important evolutionary benefits to Weissella and allows these bacteria to spread to many other hosts. Based on these results, researchers hypothesize that Weissera may play an important role in locust agglutination behavior. In other words, bacteria may somehow encourage their hosts to change their behavior and become more “sociable”.

Professor Ayari said that their “study has contributed to the understanding of locust herds, which are the main causes of famine from ancient times to the present. Our findings show that Weissera is involved in locust herds and migration. It does not explicitly prove that it does, but suggests that bacteria are likely to play an important role in inducing this. Action— A new hypothesis that has never been proposed. We hope that this new understanding will facilitate the development of new means of combating locust outbreaks. Still, it is a major threat to the myriad of people, animals and plants around the world. ”

A fascinating scent swarms locusts, research finds

For more information:
Omer Lavy et al, Microbiota-related aspects of locust density-dependent phase transitions, Environmental microbiology (2022). DOI: 10.1111 / 1462-2920.15883

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Find out why locusts form destructive herds

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