1. Field observations have indicated that infection of locusts and grasshoppers by the fungal entomopathogen Metarhizium anisopliae var. acridum may result in a substantial increase in the host's susceptibility to predation, before death is caused directly by the disease. 2. Laboratory experiments were conducted to examine how the behaviour of the desert locust Schistocerca gregaria Forskål changes following infection by M. anisopliae var. acridum to explore some potential mechanisms underlying this phenomenon. 3. In the first experiment, which involved monitoring general locust activity in small cages throughout the disease incubation period, infected locusts were observed to increase locomotion and bodily movement from 3 days after infection until death (average survival time of 11 days). There was some evidence of reduced feeding and mating behaviour following infection. 4. In a second experiment, locusts were exposed individually to a simulated predator attack and the initiation and strength of any escape responses were measured. Infected locusts were observed to have a reduced escape capability (both the propensity to escape and the strength of the response). In contrast to the relatively early changes in general activity observed in the first experiment, this was only apparent at the late stages of infection shortly before death. 5. Both an increase in movement and general apparency early in the infection process, and reduced escape capability late on, suggest mechanisms whereby the susceptibility of locusts and grasshoppers to predation might be enhanced following infection with M. anisopliae var. acridum.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Insect Science