Gliding behaviour elicited by lateral looming stimuli in flying locusts

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2005 Jan;191(1):61-73. doi: 10.1007/s00359-004-0572-x. Epub 2004 Nov 19.


We challenged tethered, flying locusts with visual stimuli looming from the side towards one eye in a way that mimics the approach of a predatory bird. Locusts respond to the lateral approach of a looming object with steering movements and a stereotyped, rapid behaviour in which the wingbeat pattern ceases and the wings are swept into a gliding posture. This gliding behaviour may cause the locust to dive. The gliding posture is maintained for 200 ms or more after which flight is resumed with an increased wingbeat frequency or else the wings are folded. A glide begins with a strong burst of activity in the mesothoracic second tergosternal motor neuron (no. 84) on both sides of the locust. Recordings of descending contralateral movement detector (DCMD) activity in a flying locust show that it responds to small (80-mm diameter) looming stimuli during tethered flight, with a prolonged burst of spikes that tracks stimulus approach and reaches peak instantaneous frequencies as, or after, stimulus motion ceases. There is a close match between the visual stimuli that elicit a gliding behaviour and those that are effective at exciting the DCMD neuron. Wing elevation into the gliding posture occurs during a maintained burst of high frequency DCMD spikes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology
  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Escape Reaction / physiology*
  • Female
  • Flight, Animal / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality
  • Grasshoppers / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Movement / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Wings, Animal / physiology