Locusts are grasshoppers that migrate en masse and devastate food security, yet little is known about the nutritional needs of marching bands in nature. While it has been hypothesized that protein limitation promotes locust marching behavior, migration is fueled by dietary carbohydrates. We studied South American Locust (Schistocerca cancellata) bands at eight sites across Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Bands ate most frequently from dishes containing carbohydrate artificial diets and minimally from balanced, protein, or control (vitamins and salts) dishes—indicating carbohydrate hunger. This hunger for carbohydrates is likely explained by the observation that local vegetation was generally protein-biased relative to locusts’ preferred protein to carbohydrate ratio. This study highlights the importance of studying the nutritional ecology of animals in their environment and suggests that carbohydrate limitation may be a common pattern for migrating insect herbivores.
- Collective movement
- Locust phase change
- Movement ecology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Insect Science
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Arizona State University Researchers Report on Findings in Entomology (Field bands of marching locust juveniles show carbohydrate, not protein, limitation)
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