Note to users. If you're seeing this message, it means that your browser cannot find this page's style/presentation instructions -- or possibly that you are using a browser that does not support current Web standards. Find out more about why this message is appearing, and what you can do to make your experience of our site the best it can be.


Logo for

Science 323 (5914): 627-630

Copyright © 2009 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Serotonin Mediates Behavioral Gregarization Underlying Swarm Formation in Desert Locusts

Michael L. Anstey,1* Stephen M. Rogers,1,2*{dagger} Swidbert R. Ott,2 Malcolm Burrows,2 Stephen J. Simpson1,3

Abstract: Desert locusts, Schistocerca gregaria, show extreme phenotypic plasticity, transforming between a little-seen solitarious phase and the notorious swarming gregarious phase depending on population density. An essential tipping point in the process of swarm formation is the initial switch from strong mutual aversion in solitarious locusts to coherent group formation and greater activity in gregarious locusts. We show here that serotonin, an evolutionarily conserved mediator of neuronal plasticity, is responsible for this behavioral transformation, being both necessary if behavioral gregarization is to occur and sufficient to induce it. Our data demonstrate a neurochemical mechanism linking interactions between individuals to large-scale changes in population structure and the onset of mass migration.

1 Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PS, UK.
2 Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EJ, UK.
3 School of Biological Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

* *These authors contributed equally to this work.

{dagger} To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: smr34{at}

Social facilitation of insect reproduction with motor-driven tactile stimuli.
A. Uzsak, J. Dieffenderfer, A. Bozkurt, and C. Schal (2014)
Proc R Soc B 281, 20140325
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Seasonality in communication and collective decision-making in ants.
N. Stroeymeyt, C. Jordan, G. Mayer, S. Hovsepian, M. Giurfa, and N. R. Franks (2014)
Proc R Soc B 281, 20133108
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Modulation of appetite and feeding behavior of the larval mosquito Aedes aegypti by the serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitor paroxetine: shifts between distinct feeding modes and the influence of feeding status.
M. P. Kinney, N. D. Panting, and T. M. Clark (2014)
J. Exp. Biol. 217, 935-943
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Unveiling the mechanism by which microsporidian parasites prevent locust swarm behavior.
W. Shi, Y. Guo, C. Xu, S. Tan, J. Miao, Y. Feng, H. Zhao, R. J. St. Leger, and W. Fang (2014)
PNAS 111, 1343-1348
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
The effect of raising and lowering tryptophan levels on human mood and social behaviour.
S. N. Young (2013)
Phil Trans R Soc B 368, 20110375
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Receptive field properties and intensity-response functions of polarization-sensitive neurons of the optic tubercle in gregarious and solitarious locusts.
B. el Jundi and U. Homberg (2012)
J Neurophysiol 108, 1695-1710
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Solitary and Gregarious Locusts Differ in Circadian Rhythmicity of a Visual Output Neuron.
E. Gaten, S. J. Huston, H. B. Dowse, and T. Matheson (2012)
J Biol Rhythms 27, 196-205
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Metabolomic analysis reveals that carnitines are key regulatory metabolites in phase transition of the locusts.
R. Wu, Z. Wu, X. Wang, P. Yang, D. Yu, C. Zhao, G. Xu, and L. Kang (2012)
PNAS 109, 3259-3263
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Critical role for protein kinase A in the acquisition of gregarious behavior in the desert locust.
S. R. Ott, H. Verlinden, S. M. Rogers, C. H. Brighton, P. S. Quah, R. K. Vleugels, R. Verdonck, and J. Vanden Broeck (2012)
PNAS 109, E381-E387
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Statistical characterization of social interactions and collective behavior in medicinal leeches.
G. Bisson and V. Torre (2011)
J Neurophysiol 106, 78-90
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Modulation of behavioral phase changes of the migratory locust by the catecholamine metabolic pathway.
Z. Ma, W. Guo, X. Guo, X. Wang, and L. Kang (2011)
PNAS 108, 3882-3887
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Translating environmental gradients into discontinuous reaction norms via hormone signalling in a polyphenic butterfly.
V. Oostra, M. A. de Jong, B. M. Invergo, F. Kesbeke, F. Wende, P. M. Brakefield, and B. J. Zwaan (2011)
Proc R Soc B 278, 789-797
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Gregarious desert locusts have substantially larger brains with altered proportions compared with the solitarious phase.
S. R. Ott and S. M. Rogers (2010)
Proc R Soc B 277, 3087-3096
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Serotonin selectively influences moral judgment and behavior through effects on harm aversion.
M. J. Crockett, L. Clark, M. D. Hauser, and T. W. Robbins (2010)
PNAS 107, 17433-17438
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Aphid wing dimorphisms: linking environmental and genetic control of trait variation.
J. A. Brisson (2010)
Phil Trans R Soc B 365, 605-616
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Spatiotemporal Receptive Field Properties of a Looming-Sensitive Neuron in Solitarious and Gregarious Phases of the Desert Locust.
S. M. Rogers, G. W. J. Harston, F. Kilburn-Toppin, T. Matheson, M. Burrows, F. Gabbiani, and H. G. Krapp (2010)
J Neurophysiol 103, 779-792
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
ECOLOGY: The Key to Pandora's Box.
P. A. Stevenson (2009)
Science 323, 594-595
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »

To Advertise     Find Products

Science Signaling. ISSN 1937-9145 (online), 1945-0877 (print). Pre-2008: Science's STKE. ISSN 1525-8882