Density-Dependent Polyphenism in Locusts

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Animal behavior is the scientific study of everything that animals do. This study includes all animals, and it ranges from the study of single celled organisms to the study of mammals. The most important question in this field of study is to ask why do animals do what they do. A person who studies animal behavior may take genetics, effects of environment of the subject, and how that relates to the evolution of that behavior into account (Animal Behavior Society). An evolutionary or developmental biologist would take animal behavior into account when they study polyphenisms. A polyphenism is the “ability of a single genome to express multiple morphologically and behaviourally distinct phenotypes”. (Colgan, T., Carolan, J., Bridgett, S., Sumner, S., Blaxter, M., & Brown, M., 2011) However, this definition does not make it clear that polyphenisms can be set off by predictable environmental cues, help “cope with temporally heterogeneous environments (dispersal morphs)”, and “to partition labour within social groups (the castes of eusocial insects)”, and that they all affect the overall success of reproduction, or fitness, of the organism (Simpson, S., Sword, G., & Lo, N, 2011). Technically speaking, fitness is how good a particular genotype is at leaving offspring in the next generation relative to how good other genotypes are at it (What About Fitness?). Polyphenisms are a huge reason that insects have had such great fitness throughout history. Such an influential polyphenism is the density-dependent phase change in locusts (Simpson, S., Sword, G., & Lo, N, 2011). Locusts, also called Acrididae, are a type of grasshopper (Locust-Animal Facts, 2013). They can live for several months and are generally a half to three inches long... ... middle of paper ... Facts - National Geographic. (n.d.). National Geographic. Retrieved May 25, 2014, from Tanaka., Pener, M., Zhu, D., Maeno, K., & Harano, K. (1993) . . Retrieved May 25, 2014, from Wilson, K., Thomas, M., Blandford, S., Dogget, M., Simpson, S., & Moore, S. (2001, August 31). Coping with crowds: Density-dependent disease resistance in desert locusts. . Retrieved May 24, 2014, from Jannot, J., Ko, A., Herrmann, D., Skinner, L., Butzen, E., Ackman, O., et al. Density-dependent polyphenism and geographic variation in size among two populations of lubber grasshoppers (Romalea microptera). Ecological Etymology , 34, 644-651. Retrieved May 22, 2014, from

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