Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Locusts harness the sun to get their optimum diet

Date:
July 1, 2014
Source:
Society for Experimental Biology
Summary:
If you are a locust, the most nutritious plant to eat depends on the ambient temperature. Scientists have discovered that locusts choose their food and then where they digest it according to how hot it is.

An Infra-Red image of a locust shows heat distribution.
Credit: Dr. Fiona Clissold

If you are a locust, the most nutritious plant to eat depends on the ambient temperature. Scientists at the University of Sydney, Australia, have discovered that locusts choose their food and then where they digest it according to how hot it is.

Related Articles


Dr Fiona Clissold, who led the study, explains why temperature has such a large influence on insect diets. "Whilst an insect's metabolic rate increases exponentially with temperature, the rate at which locusts absorb protein and carbohydrate from different plants does not increase in step with temperature. As a result, nutrient availability at a given temperature varies between different plant species. A plant can be a poor quality diet at one temperature and a good quality diet at another."

The researchers used two species of grass that are commonly eaten by locusts in Australia. The first, Kangaroo grass, gives a high protein diet at high temperatures and a high carbohydrate diet at low temperatures. In wheat, the protein/carbohydrate ratio does not change with temperature, but locusts are able to absorb the nutrients more effectively at higher temperatures. Consequently, locusts raised on Kangaroo grass reach a larger size at low temperatures, but locusts that are fed wheat are larger at high temperatures. Intriguingly, when both plants are available, the locusts modify their behaviour to get the maximum benefit from the nutrients on offer. After eating, locusts sit for 30-40 minutes to digest their meal before feeding again. Following a meal of Kangaroo grass, the locusts seek shady places, such as behind grass stalks or in burrows, in order to get a high carbohydrate meal. After eating wheat, however, the locusts sit in warmer areas to ensure a protein-rich meal.

Dr Clissold adds "Being small, insects can take advantage of the multitude of microclimates available."

As mammals are warm-blooded animals that maintain a constant body temperature, it is unlikely that temperature overtly affects the nutrient quality of their diets. However, there is some evidence that rodents may increase their body temperature to reduce the toxicity of compounds found in some plant leaves.

It is hoped that the results from this study could be used to develop methods to control agricultural insect pests and predict when outbreaks may occur. Meanwhile, the researchers are currently investigating why plant quality varies with temperature and how climate change may affect dietary preferences of herbivorous insects.

This research was presented at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Meeting 2014 held at Manchester University, UK, from the 1st -- 4th of July.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society for Experimental Biology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Society for Experimental Biology. "Locusts harness the sun to get their optimum diet." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140701193251.htm>.
Society for Experimental Biology. (2014, July 1). Locusts harness the sun to get their optimum diet. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140701193251.htm
Society for Experimental Biology. "Locusts harness the sun to get their optimum diet." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140701193251.htm (accessed January 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, January 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Brawling Pandas Are Violently Adorable

Brawling Pandas Are Violently Adorable

Buzz60 (Jan. 29, 2015) Video of pandas play fighting at the Chengdu Research Base in China will make your day. Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) shows us. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Researchers Say We Should Cut Back On Biofuels

Why Researchers Say We Should Cut Back On Biofuels

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) Biofuels aren&apos;t the best alternative to fossil fuels, according to a new report. In fact, they&apos;re quite a bad one. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
3-D Printed Wheelchair Helps Two-Legged Dog Learn to Run

3-D Printed Wheelchair Helps Two-Legged Dog Learn to Run

Buzz60 (Jan. 29, 2015) 3-D printing helps another two-legged dog run around with his four-legged friends. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the adorable video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dogs Bring on So Many Different Emotions in Their Human Best Friends

Dogs Bring on So Many Different Emotions in Their Human Best Friends

RightThisMinute (Jan. 28, 2015) From new-puppy happy tears to helpful-grocery-carrying-dog laughter, our four-legged best friends can make us feel the entire spectrum of emotions. Video provided by RightThisMinute
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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