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October 8, 2017

Cicada Fungi Research

Filed under: Massospora cicadina — Dan @ 5:37 pm

Magicicada septendecim with Massosporan fungus found at the Edison Memorial Tower Park in Edison NJ
A “Salt-Shaker of Death”. (Deadly for the cicada, not humans.)

Many types of fungi will eat cicadas, but one type — the Massospora — specifically infests and destroys cicada genitalia. Specifically, Massospora cicadina attacks Magicicada cicadas, and Massospora levispora attacks Okanagana rimosa. According to the website MycoBank Database, there’s at least 19 species of Massospora. By the names of some, you can guess which cicada it infects; Massospora diceroproctae likely infects Diceroprocta cicadas.

It’s not certain, but there are sure to be many more species of Massospora fungi — if not one for each species, perhaps approximately one for each genus. Considering that Massospora infects cicadas all around the world, it’s fair to assume that Massospora have been infecting cicadas for many millions of years.

At West Virginia University, Matt Kasson & his team are studying Massospora, and are looking for samples of cicadas with these infections. Matt regularly Tweets photos and finding such as this one of spores from a Platypedia cicada:

You you have some samples of such cicadas, and are willing to part with them, let Matt know.

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