Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Locusts' Built-in 'Surface Analysis' Ability Directs Them To Fly Overland

Date:
October 11, 2005
Source:
Hebrew University Of Jerusalem
Summary:
Swarms of millions of locusts have, since Biblical times and until our very own day, been considered a “plague” of major proportions, with the creatures destroying every growing thing in their path. Until now, it was thought that the directions of these swarms were predominantly directed by prevailing winds. Now, Hebrew University of Jerusalem scientists have shown that a physiological trait of these grasshoppers –- namely their polarization vision -- provides them with a built-in source of “surface analysis.”

Closeup of locust in tree.
Credit: Photo by Asaph Rivlin

Swarms of millions of locusts have, since Biblical times and until our very own day, been considered a “plague” of major proportions, with the creatures destroying every growing thing in their path.

Until now, it was thought that the directions of these swarms were predominantly directed by prevailing winds. Now, Hebrew University of Jerusalem scientists have shown that a physiological trait of these grasshoppers –- namely their polarization vision -- provides them with a built-in source of “surface analysis” – a discovery that could pave the way for efforts to effectively combat this periodic scourge by controlling their natural inclination to fly over land rather than water.

The desert locusts, known scientifically as Schistocerca gregaria, are able to swarm for great distances and in numbers measuring in the millions. During the locust invasion of November 2004 in Israel, it appeared that a swarm came in an easterly direction over Sinai up to the Gulf of Eilat, then turned northward without crossing the water. Only when the swarm reached the northern tip of the gulf did some of them turn again east in the direction of Aqaba and other areas of Jordan, as well as straight north over southern Israel.

This observation led to examination by scientists of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Department of Evolution, Systematics and Ecology and the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat to examine how the locusts were able to identify the gulf water and knew not to fly over it. The research focused on the ability of the locusts to identify polarized light. This is a trait which is lacking in humans but exists among other species, such as fish and insects.

The research was conducted by Dr. Nadav Shashar, who is considered a leading world expert on polarized sight, working with two students, Shai Sabah and Noa Aharoni. The research was published in a recent issue of the journal of the British Royal Society, Biology Letters, as well as in the science news sections of the journals Science and Nature.

“In order to examine if the locusts are using polarized light in determining their flight path, we examined individual locusts’ reactions in situations in which polarized and non-polarized light was reflected from various surfaces. We were able to prove that the locusts avoided flying over areas which were reflecting polarized light -- for example from mirrors or plastic surfaces.”

The sea reflects polarized light much more than dry land (which reflects mainly diffused, non-polarized light), enabling a distinction to be made between the two. “When the locusts are presented with a situation of choice between surfaces reflecting either polarized or diffused light, they exercise their preference to fly over the (dry land) area of diffused light,” said Dr. Shashar. This is a survival instinct, since if they flew over a body of water, the locusts would be deprived of both nourishment and a place to land and rest.

This research, said Dr. Shashar, could be important in providing information that would be useful in developing means for “deceiving” the locusts and deterring them from flying over agricultural lands and causing the great damage that ensues.

One way of doing so might be through more extensive use of plastic sheeting as shields to create the reflection of the polarized light that the locusts avoid.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Hebrew University Of Jerusalem. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Hebrew University Of Jerusalem. "Locusts' Built-in 'Surface Analysis' Ability Directs Them To Fly Overland." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 October 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051011071503.htm>.
Hebrew University Of Jerusalem. (2005, October 11). Locusts' Built-in 'Surface Analysis' Ability Directs Them To Fly Overland. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051011071503.htm
Hebrew University Of Jerusalem. "Locusts' Built-in 'Surface Analysis' Ability Directs Them To Fly Overland." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051011071503.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins