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Don’t Freak Out the Grasshoppers: Stressed ‘hoppers can ruin the environment

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A Xanax'd grasshopper leads to a healthy ecosystem

What do you call a stressed-out grasshopper? A menace to the environment. Scientists have discovered that when grasshoppers are under extreme amounts of stress, their diet changes and the environment suffers because of it.

In a scientific experiment, researchers exposed grasshoppers to a spider, a natural predator, to induce stress. When the test subjects were stressed, much like humans, they binged on carb-heavy foods. But when the leaping insects are eating too many carbs, their bodies contain less nitrogen. And even the relatively small amount of nitrogen sourced from the grasshoppers' bodies has a significant impact on plant and crop growth.

"We are dealing here with an absolutely new kind of mechanism whereby every small chemical change in a creature can regulate the natural cycle, thus in effect affecting the ecology in total, such as the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere (through decomposition) and field crop productivity," explained Dr. Dror Halwena of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "This has tremendous consequences for our ecological understanding of the living world."

The bottom line? When grasshoppers are stressed, plants don't grow as well. And when plants don't grow as well, farmers harvest less food and more carbon dioxide stays in the air, leading to global warming. It seems that healthy grasshoppers are green in more ways than one.

[Image credit: Rasmus Knutsson]

[Source via PopSci]

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Tecca

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