From Molecules to Management: Mechanisms and Consequences of Locust Phase Polyphenism

Darron A. Cullen, Arianne Cease, Alexandre V. Latchininsky, Amir Ayali, Kevin Berry, Jerome Buhl, Rien De Keyser, Bert Foquet, Joleen C. Hadrich, Tom Matheson, Swidbert R. Ott, Mario A. Poot-Pech, Brian E. Robinson, Jonathan M. Smith, Hojun Song, Gregory A. Sword, Jozef Vanden Broeck, Rik Verdonck, Heleen Verlinden, Stephen M. Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Locusts are grasshoppers (Orthoptera: Acrididae) that are characterised by their capacity for extreme population density-dependent polyphenism, transforming between a cryptic solitarious phase that avoids other locusts, and a swarming gregarious phase that aggregates and undergoes collective migration. The two phases differ in many aspects of behaviour, physiology and ecology, making locusts a useful model through which to investigate the phenotypic interface of molecular processes and environmental cues. This review summarises recent progress in understanding the mechanisms and consequences of locust phase change, from differential gene expression and epigenetic regulation through to neuronal plasticity and altered behaviour. The impact of techniques such as RNA interference and the sequencing of the first locust genome are discussed, and we consider the evidence from comparative analyses between related locust species for the possible evolution of locust-like phenotypic plasticity. Collective movement, and new ways of measuring the behaviour of both migrating bands in the field and individuals in the laboratory, are analysed. We also examine the environmental factors that affect phase change, along with the wider impact of land use and management strategies that may unwittingly create environments conducive to outbreaks. Finally, we consider the human costs of locust swarming behaviour, and use combined social, economic and environmental approaches to suggest potential ways forward for locust monitoring and management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAdvances in Insect Physiology
StateAccepted/In press - 2017


  • Behaviour
  • Biogenic amine
  • Collective movement
  • Environmental stimuli
  • Epigenetics
  • Human-locust interactions
  • Locust phase polyphenism
  • Locusta
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Schistocerca

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science


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