Locust research takes guts

Locusts in a containment unit

This week the Global Locust Initiative facilitated a collaboration three years in the making. Dr. Britt Peterson, assistant professor of Biological Sciences at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), visited the Cease lab at Arizona State University to jump start a project on gut microbiota of two Schistocerca species.

Peterson’s research focuses on insect-microbe associations and how these gut microbial communities impact host biology. With access to live hoppers at ASU, Peterson worked to culture normal flora and potential pathogens out of freshly dissected gut tissue.

Dissecting equipment

“This week we were able to isolate several species of culturable, aerobic bacteria from S. americana and S. cancellata on rich media using fundamental microbiology techniques,” she explained. “Now, I’ll take these back to SIUE for students to characterize and begin working to understand the functional roles of these bacteria in the broader context of the locust gut.”

In addition, locust guts were dissected for DNA extraction and metagenomic analysis. The aim of this project is to describe the bacterial community in these species. After this initial step, future projects will build on this work to understand the influence of the gut community on locust physiology, ecology and behavior.

Locust dissected gut tissue
Freshly dissected locust gut tissue

You can follow along with developments in this and Peterson’s other insect-microbe research on her Instagram @dr.bugguts.