Maximum metabolic rate, relative lift, wingbeat frequency and stroke amplitude during tethered flight in the adult locust Locusta migratoria

Edward P Snelling, Roger S Seymour, Philip G D Matthews, C.R. White

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Flying insects achieve the highest mass-specific aerobic metabolic rates of all animals. However, few studies attempt to maximise the metabolic cost of flight and so many estimates could be sub-maximal, especially where insects have been tethered. To address this issue, oxygen consumption was measured during tethered flight in adult locusts Locusta migratoria, some of which had a weight attached to each wing (totalling 30-45% of body mass). Mass-specific metabolic rate increased from 28±2μmol O2g-1 h -1 at rest to 896±101μmol O2g-1 h-1 during flight in weighted locusts, and to 1032±69μmol O2g-1 h-1 in unweighted locusts. Maximum metabolic rate of locusts during tethered flight (MMO2; μmol O2 h-1) increased with body mass (Mb; g) according to the allometric equation MMO2 994Mb 0.75±0.19, whereas published metabolic rates of moths and orchid bees during hovering free flight (MHO2) are approximately 2.8-fold higher, MHO2=2767Mb 0.72±0.08. The modest flight metabolic rate of locusts is unlikely to be an artefact of individuals failing to exert themselves, because mean maximum lift was not significantly different from that required to support body mass (95±8%), mean wingbeat frequency was 23.7±0.6 Hz, and mean stroke amplitude was 105±5 deg in the forewing and 96±5 deg in the hindwing - all of which are close to free-flight values. Instead, the low cost of flight could reflect the relatively small size and relatively modest anatomical power density of the locust flight motor, which is a likely evolutionary trade-off between flight muscle maintenance costs and aerial performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3317-3323
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Insect
  • Lift
  • Locust
  • Maximum metabolic rate
  • Respirometry
  • Stroke amplitude
  • Tethered flight
  • Weights
  • Wingbeat frequency

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