January 30, 2009, 3:13 pm
Locust swarms 'high' on seratonin
What could possibly make individual locusts gather together into swarms that wreak devastation wherever they go? A molecule called seratonin olds the key - guess where it is also found...
Sorry - no photo of swarming locusts today - but this giraffe's expression holds the clue to where seratonin is found in mammals...in the brain!
It seems that locusts are content to live as individuals when there is plenty of food available, but once food gets scarce, the levels of seratonin increase, causing their muscles to grow stronger and their colour to darken.
Swarms of billions of locusts can devastate crops meant for humans in Africa and China, so finding the molecule responsible for the swarming behaviour offers hope that an inhibitor of seratonin can be manufactured to protect farmers' crops by stopping the swarms forming.