Quorum Sensing in Grasshoppers

Quorum sensing is just one example of how “more is different” rules in nature. The behavior of several species can undergo drastic changes under certain conditions, which can include a density of other individuals of the same species in close proximity. Slime mold cells called Dictyostelium, which live as individual amoebae under normal circumstances, can aggregate into a single slug-like creature when food is scarce, but only if there are enough cells around. Each dictyostelium senses the presence of its pals by chemical signals. Fascinatingly, the lack of food can also alter the behavior of much larger organisms, turning innocuous grasshoppers into swarms of ravenous locusts, but only if enough other grasshoppers are around:

From the NYT article

“As the grasshoppers crowd together, something shifts. The insects, which normally live alone, begin bumping into one another. When grasshoppers touch one another’s hind legs, the contact sets off hormonal changes: The adults’ neutral brown coloring is replaced with a fearsome bright yellow, and they become “gregarious” group insects, coordinating their growth, behavior and egg laying.”
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Author: lnemzer

Assistant Professor Nova Southeastern University

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