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Cannibalism can drive the evolution of behavioural phase polyphenism in locusts

Guttal, Vishwesha and Romanczuk, Pawel and Simpson, Stephen J and Sword, Gregory A and Couzin, Iain D (2012) Cannibalism can drive the evolution of behavioural phase polyphenism in locusts. In: ECOLOGY LETTERS, 15 (10). pp. 1158-1166.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1461-0248.2012.01840.x...


During outbreaks, locust swarms can contain millions of insects travelling thousands of kilometers while devastating vegetation and crops. Such large-scale spatial organization is preceded locally by a dramatic density-dependent phenotypic transition in multiple traits. Behaviourally, low-density solitarious individuals avoid contact with one another; above a critical local density, they undergo a rapid behavioural transition to the gregarious phase whereby they exhibit mutual attraction. Although proximate causes of this phase polyphenism have been widely studied, the ultimate driving factors remain unclear. Using an individual-based evolutionary model, we reveal that cannibalism, a striking feature of locust ecology, could lead to the evolution of density-dependent behavioural phase-change in juvenile locusts. We show that this behavioural strategy minimizes risk associated with cannibalistic interactions and may account for the empirically observed persistence of locust groups during outbreaks. Our results provide a parsimonious explanation for the evolution of behavioural plasticity in locusts.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Copyright for this article belongs to WILEY-BLACKWELL
Keywords: adaptation; behavioural plasticity; collective migration; collective animal behaviour; locust plagues; phase-change; spatial evolutionary ecology; self-organization
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2013 12:29
Last Modified: 08 Jan 2013 12:29
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/45254

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