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June 2, 2018

New paper on the molecular phylogeny of the cicadas and tribe and subfamily classification

A new paper has been published titled A molecular phylogeny of the cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) with a review of tribe and subfamily classification by David C. Marshall, Max Moulds, Kathy B. R. Hill, Benjamin W. Price, Elizabeth J. Wade, Christopher L. Owen, Geert Goemans, Kiran Marathe, Vivek Sarkar, John R. Cooley, Allen F. Sanborn, Krushnamegh Kunte, Martin H. Villet, Chris Simon.

The paper was published in Vol 4424, No 1 of Zootaxa. Link to paper.

In a nutshell: These researchers compared the DNA of a variety of cicadas to determine how they are related evolutionarily and how they should be organized in terms of tribes and sub-families.

Abstract:

A molecular phylogeny and a review of family-group classification are presented for 137 species (ca. 125 genera) of the insect family Cicadidae, the true cicadas, plus two species of hairy cicadas (Tettigarctidae) and two outgroup species from Cercopidae. Five genes, two of them mitochondrial, comprise the 4992 base-pair molecular dataset. Maximum-likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic results are shown, including analyses to address potential base composition bias. Tettigarcta is confirmed as the sister-clade of the Cicadidae and support is found for three subfamilies identified in an earlier morpho- logical cladistic analysis. A set of paraphyletic deep-level clades formed by African genera are together named as Tettigo- myiinae n. stat. Taxonomic reassignments of genera and tribes are made where morphological examination confirms incorrect placements suggested by the molecular tree, and 11 new tribes are defined (Arenopsaltriini n. tribe, Durangonini n. tribe, Katoini n. tribe, Lacetasini n. tribe, Macrotristriini n. tribe, Malagasiini n. tribe, Nelcyndanini n. tribe, Pagi- phorini n. tribe, Pictilini n. tribe, Psaltodini n. tribe, and Selymbriini n. tribe). Tribe Tacuini n. syn. is synonymized with Cryptotympanini, and Tryellina n. syn. is synonymized with an expanded Tribe Lamotialnini. Tribe Hyantiini n. syn. is synonymized with Fidicinini. Tribe Sinosenini is transferred to Cicadinae from Cicadettinae, Cicadatrini is moved to Ci- cadettinae from Cicadinae, and Ydiellini and Tettigomyiini are transferred to Tettigomyiinae n. stat from Cicadettinae. While the subfamily Cicadinae, historically defined by the presence of timbal covers, is weakly supported in the molecular tree, high taxonomic rank is not supported for several earlier clades based on unique morphology associated with sound production.

January 23, 2018

New paper: Massospora cicadina hijacks the sexual signals of periodical cicadas

A new paper, A specialized fungal parasite (Massospora cicadina) hijacks the sexual signals of periodical cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae: Magicicada), has been published by John R. Cooley, David C. Marshall & Kathy B. R. Hill, in Scientific Reports 8, Article number: 1432 (2018).

Read the paper online.

In a nutshell: the fungus infects males and causes them to exactly mimic the mating behavior of female cicadas, thus infected males end up spreading the fungus to uninfected males.

Abstract:

Male periodical cicadas (Magicicada spp.) infected with conidiospore-producing (“Stage I”) infections of the entomopathogenic fungus Massospora cicadina exhibit precisely timed wing-flick signaling behavior normally seen only in sexually receptive female cicadas. Male wing-flicks attract copulation attempts from conspecific males in the chorus; close contact apparently spreads the infective conidiospores. In contrast, males with “Stage II” infections that produce resting spores that wait for the next cicada generation do not produce female-specific signals. We propose that these complex fungus-induced behavioral changes, which resemble apparently independently derived changes in other cicada-Massospora systems, represent a fungus “extended phenotype” that hijacks cicadas, turning them into vehicles for fungus transmission at the expense of the cicadas’ own interests.

And now, because I need an image for the post: a meme:

Fungus Bae

Cicadas, when infected, are called “salt shakers of doom”. Add that to the meme “Salt Bae”, and the image makes sense.

August 18, 2017

A new genus for North American Cicadetta species: Cicadettana

A photo of a Cicadettana calliope calliope:
Cicadetta calliope calliope (Walker, 1850)

New changes to the classification of the North American cicadas belonging to the genus Cicadetta have been published. The North American Cicadetta were found to be unrelated to the European Cicadetta (including the type species C. montana), so a new genus was needed. The new genus is Cicadettana. Research & paper by David Marshall and Kathy Hill.

Zootaxa page for the paper.

The generic classification of cicadas within the globally distributed tribe Cicadettini (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) has been challenging due to their often conservative morphology. A recent molecular analysis has indicated that the six North American taxa currently classified in Cicadetta are unrelated to the European type species of Cicadetta, C. montana Scopoli. Here we identify a set of diagnostic morphological characters for a new genus, which we distinguish from its closest relatives in Eurasia and Australasia.

May 31, 2017

Neotibicen similaris apalachicola, a new cicada subspecies

A new subspecies of the Similar Dog-Day Cicada has been described in the paper A new Neotibicen cicada subspecies (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) from the southeastern USA forms hybrid zones with a widespread relative despite a divergent male calling song by David C. Marshall and Kathy B. R. Hill (Zootaxa, Vol 4272, No 4). The cicada is named Neotibicen similaris apalachicola.

This cicada lives in Florida, Georgia & Alabama, and hybridizes with the other Similar Dog-Day Cicada sub-speces, Neotibicen similaris similaris. The document is available on biotaxa.org.

A morphologically cryptic subspecies of Neotibicen similaris (Smith and Grossbeck) is described from forests of the Apalachicola region of the southeastern United States. Although the new form exhibits a highly distinctive male calling song, it hybridizes extensively where it meets populations of the nominate subspecies in parapatry, by which it is nearly surrounded. This is the first reported example of hybridization between North American nonperiodical cicadas. Acoustic and morphological characters are added to the original description of the nominate subspecies, and illustrations of complex hybrid song phenotypes are presented. The biogeography of N. similaris is discussed in light of historical changes in forest composition on the southeastern Coastal Plain.

You will find song samples and maps on the Insect Singers website.

I think this is an image of the new cicada:

September 17, 2016

What is Megatibicen?!

Update (9/20): I guessed the species correctly: all the Large Flute Players.

Update (9/24): I neglected to note that there’s another paper out there by Young June Lee called Description of three new genera, Paratibicen, Megatibicen, and Ameritibicen, of Cryptotympanini (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) and a key to their species. Link to it here. This manuscript goes beyond one new genera, and instead introduces three: Paratibicen, Megatibicen, and Ameritibicen. Lee’s paper differs from Sanborn & Heath in that the large Neotibicen are spit into Megatibicen and Ameritibicen in Young’s document, but they’re all Megatibicen in Sanborn & Heath’s paper.

Megatibicen

Last night I had a rough night’s sleep. I tossed and turned all night long. I remember looking at the clock and seeing 4am, and thinking “tomorrow is ruined”. Sometime during the night I dreamt of finding thousands of molted Neotibicen exuvia clinging to shrubbery — a rare if not impossible sight in real life.

When I woke I checked my email and found a communication from David Marshall. David is well known and respected in the cicada world for many things including describing the 7th species of Magicicada with John Cooley (link to document), as well as being part of the team who defined the Neotibicen and Hadoa genera (link to paper)1.

David wrote to let me know that Allen F. Sanborn and Maxine S. Heath had published a new paper titled: Megatibicen n. gen., a new North American cicada genus (Hemiptera: Cicadidae: Cicadinae: Cryptotympanini), 2016, Zootaxa Vol 4168, No 3.(link).

So, what is MEGATIBICEN? Assumptions after the abstract.

Here is the abstract:

The genus Tibicen has had a confusing history (see summary in Boulard and Puissant 2014; Marshall and Hill 2014; Sanborn 2014). Boulard and his colleague (Boulard 1984; 1988; 1997; 2001; 2003; Boulard and Puissant 2013; 2014; 2015) have argued for the suppression of Tibicen and the taxa derivatived from it in favor of Lyristes Horváth. Boulard’s argument for suppression was first described in Melville and Sims (1984) who presented the case for suppression to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature with further comments made by Hamilton (1985), Boulard (1985), and Lauterer (1985). A lack of action resulted in additional comments being published in 2014 again supporting the retention (Sanborn 2014; Marshall and Hill 2014) or the suppression (Boulard and Puissant 2014) of Tibicen.

My guess, without reading the document, is that Megatibicen includes the larger North America Neotibicen species, including the “auletes group” (N. auletes, N. resh, N. figuratus, N. resonans), the “pronotalis group” (N. pronotalis, N. dealbatus, N. cultriformis) and the “dorsatus group” (N. dorsatus, N. tremulus), or a mix of these. N. auletes is the largest cicada in North America. “Mega” is the Greek word for “very large” or “great”. Word is that Kathy Hill and David Marshall also planned on describing a Megatibicen genus at one point, as well.

Whenever cicada names change it causes feelings of bemusement, discontentment and discomfort amongst some cicada researches and fans. I know I don’t like it because I have to update the names of cicadas in 100’s of places on this website ;). Some folks simply disagree with the folks writing the paper. Some people prefer former names because they sound nicer (e.g. N. chloromerus vs N. tibicen tibicen). Some people simply do not like change.

Related: Here’s my article on when Neotibicen & Hadoa were established from Tibicen.

1 Hill, et al. Molecular phylogenetics, diversification, and systematics of Tibicen Latreille 1825 and allied cicadas of the tribe Cryptotympanini, with three new genera and emphasis on species from the USA and Canada (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha: Cicadidae) 2015, Zootaxa 3985 (2): 219–251.

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