On the origin of the desert locust Schistocerca gregaria (Forskl) (Orthoptera: Acrididae: Cyrtacanthacridinae)
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The locust genus Schistocerca (Stål) has a transatlantic disjunction, which has been controversial for more than a century. Among 50 species within the genus, only one species, the desert locust (S. gregaria Forskål), occurs in the Old World, and the rest occur in the New World. Earlier taxonomists suggested that the desert locust is a migrant from America, but this view was strongly challenged when a large swarm of the desert locust successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean from West Africa to the West Indies in 1988. The currently accepted view, supported by this incident, is that the New World species are descendants of a gregaria-like ancestor, and the desert locust would be ancestral to the rest of the genus. However, there is surprisingly little evidence to support this view other than the 1988 swarm. I present the most comprehensive phylogenetic study that suggests that the desert locust originated from the New World, contrary to the accepted view. I also present a hypothesis about how the ancestral Schistocerca might have colonized the New World in the first place in light of phylogenetic relationships with other cyrtacanthacridine genera.
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