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.


Sci. Signal., 3 February 2009
Vol. 2, Issue 56, p. ec37
[DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.256ec37]


Neurobiology To Swarm or Not to Swarm?

Andrew M. Sugden

Science, AAAS, Cambridge CB2 1LQ, UK

In desert locusts, the radical transformation from a harmless "solitarious" form to the swarm-forming "gregarious" phase is one of the most extraordinary and iconic examples of density-dependent phenotypic plasticity in nature, as well as one of the most economically devastating. Now Anstey et al. (see the Perspective by Stevenson) reveal a neurochemical mechanism linking the changed behavior of individuals to profound changes in population structure, which, in this instance, lead to swarming and mass migration. The key to the phenotypic change is the ubiquitous neurotransmitter serotonin, which is synthesized in response to multiple sensory cues that gauge locust population density, switching locusts from mutual aversion to mutual attraction—the first and essential stage in establishing swarms.

M. L. Anstey, S. M. Rogers, S. R. Ott, M. Burrows, S. J. Simpson, Serotonin mediates behavioral gregarization underlying swarm formation in desert locusts. Science 323, 627–630 (2009). [Abstract] [Full Text]

P. A. Stevenson, The key to Pandora's box. Science 323, 594–595 (2009). [Summary] [Full Text]

Citation: A. M. Sugden, To Swarm or Not to Swarm? Sci. Signal. 2, ec37 (2009).

To Advertise     Find Products

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