Researchers have been studying the phenomenon of swarming locusts for many years. The central question is what triggers the behavior, because actually locusts are not organized in swarms. On the contrary, they live almost self-loosely and avoid contact with conspecifics. However, within a few hours, this behavior can change fundamentally. The insects suddenly show a high activity, switching from green or brown to an often red signal color, rot together and eat everything that comes between the chewing tools.
This change of mind occurs, according to scientists around Swidbert Ott of the University of Cambridge during periods of drought. The grasshoppers no longer find enough food and inevitably move together on fertile land. "The insects suffer from frustration and hunger. The swarming serves to find together new grazing areas ?, explains the biologist Stephen Rogers.
The scientists' research suggests that the protein called protein kinase A is the mastermind for the social behavior of otherwise strict loners. In humans and many animals is this substance involved in learning processes? in the grasshopper, the protein kinase A but apparently a behavioral regulator, which showed the experiments of researchers. They used larvae of the desert locust Schistocera gregaria and adult animals under various doses of protein and documented their behavior. Result: From a certain dose, the insects formed a swarm, or changed their behavior. "So the protein triggers social behavior, which amplifies itself on the basis of positive experiences, so that the swarm stays together, " says Swidbert Ott. display
The findings could now benefit the development of control strategies against grasshopper pests: drugs that block the protein could in the future to prevent the formation of grasshopper swarms, the researchers hope.Swidbert Ott (University of Cambridge) et al .: PNAS Early Edition, doi: 10.1073 / pnas.1114990109 © science.de? Marion Martin