The maternal foam plug constitutes a reservoir for the desert locust's bacterial symbionts

Omer Lavy, Uri Gophna, Amir Ayali, Shalev Gihaz, Ayelet Fishman, Eran Gefen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A hallmark of the desert locust's ancient and deserved reputation as a devastating agricultural pest is that of the long-distance, multi-generational migration of locust swarms to new habitats. The bacterial symbionts that reside within the locust gut comprise a key aspect of its biology, augmenting its immunity and having also been reported to be involved in the swarming phenomenon through the emission of attractant volatiles. However, it is still unclear whether and how these beneficial symbionts are transmitted vertically from parent to offspring. Using comparative 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing and direct experiments with engineered bacteria, we provide evidence for vertical transmission of locust gut bacteria. The females may perform this activity by way of inoculation of the egg-pod's foam plug, through which the larvae pass upon hatching. Furthermore, analysis of the composition of the foam revealed chitin to be its major component, along with immunity-related proteins such as lysozyme, which could be responsible for the inhibition of some bacteria in the foam while allowing other, more beneficial, strains to proliferate. Our findings reveal a potential vector for the transgenerational transmission of symbionts in locusts, which contributes to the locust swarm's ability to invade and survive in new territories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2461-2472
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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