Visual processing and collective motion-related decision-making in desert locusts

Itay Bleichman, Pratibha Yadav, Amir Ayali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Collectively moving groups of animals rely on the decision-making of locally interacting individuals in order to maintain swarm cohesion. However, the complex and noisy visual environment poses a major challenge to the extraction and processing of relevant information. We addressed this challenge by studying swarming-related decision-making in desert locust last-instar nymphs. Controlled visual stimuli, in the form of random dot kinematograms, were presented to tethered locust nymphs in a trackball set-up, while monitoring movement trajectory and walking parameters. In a complementary set of experiments, the neurophysiological basis of the observed behavioural responses was explored. Our results suggest that locusts use filtering and discrimination upon encountering multiple stimuli simultaneously. Specifically, we show that locusts are sensitive to differences in speed at the individual conspecific level, and to movement coherence at the group level, and may use these to filter out non-relevant stimuli. The locusts also discriminate and assign different weights to different stimuli, with an observed interactive effect of stimulus size, relative abundance and motion direction. Our findings provide insights into the cognitive abilities of locusts in the domain of decision-making and visual-based collective motion, and support locusts as a model for investigating sensory-motor integration and motion-related decision-making in the intricate swarm environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20221862
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1991
StatePublished - 25 Jan 2023


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation2306/18


    • Schistocerca gregaria
    • cognition
    • discrimination
    • swarming
    • visual processing


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