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Desert Diary
Arthropods/Mormon Crickets


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We've all heard that three's a crowd, and privacy issues are big now, what with fears of terrorism and big government. Nonetheless, wanting to be part of the crowd also is very human. We'll just have to face up to the fact that we're complex critters with often contradictory wants. Much of this is because we're social animals, interacting with each other in a multitude of ways.

But what of animals that don't seem to enjoy the interpersonal relationships so common in humans, but nevertheless may gather together in huge numbers. Mormon crickets, for example, may form migratory hordes numbering into the millions of individuals. Recent studies of the phenomenon have been carried out on Mormon crickets by using radiotelemetry. Small radio transmitters allowed the researchers to know the fate of individual crickets. Displacing individuals a short distance away from the band resulted in 50-60% mortality from predators over a couple of days compared to no mortality to radio-equipped crickets that remained with the band. This kind of puts a whole new meaning to getting lost in the crowd.

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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a production of KTEP, National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.



Sword, G. A., P. D. Lorch, and D. T. Gwynne. 2005. Migratory bands give crickets protection. Science 433:703.