Neural Correlates to Flight-Related Density-Dependent Phase Characteristics in Locusts

E. Fuchs, W. Kutsch, A. Ayali*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Locust phase polymorphism is an extreme example of behavioral plasticity; in response to changes in population density, locusts dramatically alter their behavior. These changes in behavior facilitate the appearance of various morphological and physiological phase characteristics. One of the principal behavioral changes is the more intense flight behavior and improved flight performance of gregarious locusts compared to solitary ones. Surprisingly, the neurophysiological basis of the behavioral phase characteristics has received little attention. Here we present density-dependent differences in flight-related sensory and central neural elements in the desert locust. Using techniques already established for gregarious locusts, we compared the response of locusts of both phases to controlled wind stimuli. Gregarious locusts demonstrated a lower threshold for wind-induced flight initiation. Wind-induced spiking activity in the locust tritocerebral commissure giants (TCG, a pair of identified interneurons that relay input from head hair receptors to thoracic motor centers) was found to be weaker in solitary locusts compared to gregarious ones. The solitary locusts' TCG also demonstrated much stronger spike frequency adaptation in response to wind stimuli. Although the number of forehead wind sensitive hairs was found to be larger in solitary locusts, the stimuli conveyed to their flight motor centers were weaker. The tritocerebral commissure dwarf (TCD) is an inhibitory flight-related interneuron in the locust that responds to light stimuli. An increase in TCD spontaneous activity in dark conditions was significantly stronger in gregarious locusts than in solitary ones. Thus, phase-dependent differences in the activity of flight-related interneurons reflect behavioral phase characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-162
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2003


  • Behavioral plasticity
  • Flight interneuron
  • Locust
  • Phase polymorphism
  • Spike adaptation


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