October 15, 2020
ASU to join six other universities to create an institute to better understand locust phase change.
As a formidable ecological force, locusts have a long history of devastating crops and causing food insecurity throughout history and around the world. A secret to their success—dubbed phase polyphenism—is a textbook case of phenotypic plasticity where an individual can modify its phenotype in response to a changing environment. Locusts can capitalize on times of plenty by altering their morphology, physiology, and behavior as they shift from a cryptic and solitary lifestyle to a mobile and gregarious one. This ultimately results in the dramatic outbreaks with swarms of billions of individuals we are seeing currently on multiple continents.