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Publication - Dr Gregory Sutton

    Increased muscular volume and cuticular specialisations enhance jump velocity in solitarious compared with gregarious desert locusts, Schistocerca gregaria

    Citation

    Rogers, S, Riley, J, Brighton, C, Sutton, G, Cullen, D & Burrows, M, 2016, ‘Increased muscular volume and cuticular specialisations enhance jump velocity in solitarious compared with gregarious desert locusts, Schistocerca gregaria’. Journal of Experimental Biology, vol 219., pp. 635-648

    Abstract

    The desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria, shows a strong phenotypic
    plasticity. It can develop, depending upon population density, into
    either a solitarious or gregarious phase that differs in many aspects of
    behaviour, physiology and morphology. Prominent amongst these
    differences is that solitarious locusts have proportionately longer hind
    femora than gregarious locusts. The hind femora contain the muscles
    and energy-storing cuticular structures that propel powerful jumps
    using a catapult-like mechanism. We show that solitarious locusts
    jump on average 23% faster and 27% further than gregarious locusts,
    and attribute this improved performance to three sources: first, a
    17.5% increase in the relative volume of their hind femur, and hence
    muscle volume; second, a 24.3% decrease in the stiffness of the
    energy-storing semi-lunar processes of the distal femur; and third, a
    4.5% decrease in the stiffness of the tendon of the extensor tibiae
    muscle. These differences mean that solitarious locusts can generate
    more power and store more energy in preparation for a jump than can
    gregarious locusts. This improved performance comes at a cost:
    solitarious locusts expend nearly twice the energy of gregarious
    locusts during a single jump and the muscular co-contraction that
    energises the cuticular springs takes twice as long. There is thus a
    trade-off between achieving maximum jump velocity in the solitarious
    phase against the ability to engage jumping rapidly and repeatedly in
    the gregarious phase.

    Full details in the University publications repository