Anisotropic interaction and motion states of locusts in a hopper band. Academic Article uri icon


  • Swarming locusts present a quintessential example of animal collective motion. Juvenile locusts march and hop across the ground in coordinated groups called hopper bands. Composed of up to millions of insects, hopper bands exhibit aligned motion and various collective structures. These groups are well-documented in the field, but the individual insects themselves are typically studied in much smaller groups in laboratory experiments. We present, to our knowledge, the first trajectory data that detail the movement of individual locusts within a hopper band in a natural setting. Using automated video tracking, we derive our data from footage of four distinct hopper bands of the Australian plague locust, Chortoicetes terminifera. We reconstruct nearly 200 000 individual trajectories composed of over 3.3 million locust positions. We classify these data into three motion states: stationary, walking and hopping. Distributions of relative neighbour positions reveal anisotropies that depend on motion state. Stationary locusts have high-density areas distributed around them apparently at random. Walking locusts have a low-density area in front of them. Hopping locusts have low-density areas in front and behind them. Our results suggest novel insect interactions, namely that locusts change their motion to avoid colliding with neighbours in front of them.

published proceedings

  • Proc Biol Sci

author list (cited authors)

  • Weinburd, J., Landsberg, J., Kravtsova, A., Lam, S., Sharma, T., Simpson, S. J., Sword, G. A., & Buhl, C.

complete list of authors

  • Weinburd, Jasper||Landsberg, Jacob||Kravtsova, Anna||Lam, Shanni||Sharma, Tarush||Simpson, Stephen J||Sword, Gregory A||Buhl, Camille

publication date

  • January 2024