Green Fingers I Wish

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Serotonin link to locust swarming

The ability of locusts to make the transformation from solitude to swarms capable of stripping a field in seconds has been traced to a potent mood-altering chemical, serotonin.

The discovery of serotonin's role in the swarming process, announced yesterday in Science magazine by researchers from the UK and Australia, opens new possibilities for controlling the pest, which has blighted lives since time immemorial.

Today, the livelihoods of 10 per cent of people worldwide are thought to be affected by the insects' swarming.

In humans and other mammals, serotonin creates moods of optimism and excitement. In locusts, it promotes gregariousness and physical changes so great that biologists at one time believed that solitary and swarming locusts constituted separate species.

Physically, swarming is initiated by the stress caused by overcrowding and competition for dwindling food resources.


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