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LONDON (Reuters) - A brain chemical that lifts people out of depression can transform solitary grasshoppers into swarming desert locusts, a finding that could one day help prevent the devastating plagues, researchers said on Thursday.
Increases of serotonin, the nerve-signaling chemical targeted by many antidepressants, appears to spark the behavior changes needed to turn the normally harmless insects into bugs that gang up to munch crops, they said.
"Our paper shows how this change in behavior changes what are essentially large grasshoppers living in the desert into swarming, destructive pests," said University of Cambridge researcher Stephen Rogers, who worked on the study.
"For a swarm to develop the locusts must transform from a solitary phase into a gregarious phase."
"The gregarious phase is a strategy born of desperation and driven by hunger, and swarming is a response to find pastures new," he said.