Increased Male-Male Mounting Behaviour in Desert Locusts during Infection with an Entomopathogenic Fungus

Lisa M. Clancy, Amy L. Cooper, Gareth W. Griffith, Roger D. Santer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Same-sex sexual behaviour occurs across diverse animal taxa, but adaptive explanations can be difficult to determine. Here we investigate male-male mounting (MMM) behaviour in female-deprived desert locust males infected with the entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium acridum. Over a four-week period, infected locusts performed more MMM behaviours than healthy controls. Among infected locusts, the probability of MMM, and the duration of time spent MMM, significantly increased with the mounting locust's proximity to death. In experimental trials, infected locusts were also significantly more likely than controls to attempt to mount healthy males. Therefore, we demonstrate that MMM is more frequent among infected than healthy male locusts, and propose that this may be explained by terminal reproductive effort and a lowered mate acceptance threshold in infected males. However, during experimental trials mounting attempts were more likely to be successful if the mounted locusts were experimentally manipulated to have a reduced capacity to escape. Thus, reduced escape capability resulting from infection may also contribute to the higher frequency of MMM among infected male locusts. Our data demonstrate that pathogen infection can affect same-sex sexual behaviour, and suggest that the impact of such behaviours on host and pathogen fitness will be a novel focus for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5659
Number of pages7
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

The authors thank Dr V.L. Hunt for her helpful advice on Metarhizium culture and preparation of conidial suspensions, and ARSEF, ARS Biological Integrated Pest Management Research Unit, United States Department of Agriculture, for provision of M. acridum. This work was funded by an AU IBERS research studentship to L.M.C., and an AU University Research Fund grant to R.D.S. The Institute of Biological, Environmental, and Rural Sciences receives strategic funding from the BBSRC.


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