May 14, 2008

Miscreant Youth

Imagine yourself working your fields, doing back breaking work day after day in the hot sun, trying to coax your beets to grow. Just as the sun reaches its zenith, you stand upright to stretch your aching back. You cock your head at the sound of approaching rain.


You look to the horizon and see what looks to be a fast approaching, swirling cloud of blackness that blots out the sky. But what you're looking at is a locust swarm--and the utter ruination of your beets.

A locust swarm can be comprised of billions of individuals and can eat tens of thousands of tons of vegetation each day. But why in the world do these normally herbivorous locusts seem to spontaneously swarm? It's because of their miscreant youths.

A new study posits that when times get tough, the tough become cannibals. This phenomenon seems to be isolated to the flightless youth, who turn on each other in a bid for locust flesh (oh, if only locusts could make zombie movies...). This cannibalism triggers fear and flight reflexes in the other youths, who then continue this pattern of fear-driven flight quite literally when they gain their wings (they earn their wings by doing a good deed). Thus is a swarm born. Thus we have the genesis of the swarm. Thus is the root of the swarm discovered. Thus...sorry.

It's comforting to know that most species of animalia have trouble with their teenagers. Except for bugs that go through a pupal phase--that's the way to do it.

Thanks for the link, Ida.

Photo source: AP via BBC News


Unknown said...

I've known teenagers that a 17-year stint underground could only improve....

Lindsay said...

Hm, interesting. I had no idea.