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The wisdom of the swarm

Locusts evolved the habit of forming massive groups to avoid predation, a new model suggests

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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The propensity of locusts to form huge swarms and blanket landscapes may have evolved as a strategy to disrupt foraging by predators such as small mammals, lizards, and birds, according to research published today."If the [locusts] are dispersed and in large numbers, a predator can move through an environment preying on the food and sustain itself," explained linkurl:Andy Reynolds,;http://www.rothamsted.bbsrc.ac.uk/bab/index.php?folder=home&page=people&people=23 a biomathematician at Rothamsted Research in the UK and lead author on the linkurl:paper,;http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(08)01547-9 which appears in today's (Dec. 18) issue of __Current Biology__. "If the [locusts] bunch up and form large groups, then from the point of view of a predator, the environment is sparse."
__A locust swarm in Australia__
__Courtesy of Andy Reynolds__
Reynolds, with colleagues in the UK and Australia, applied "percolation theory," a mathematical model commonly used by material scientists, chemists and physicists to describe the behavior and connectivity of random clusters of atoms or molecules, to...
__A solitary, green locust with a gregarious yellow and black one.__
__Courtesy of Kenneth Wilson__


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