Cicada Mania

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May 1, 2024

Share your fungus infected cicadas with Matt Kasson, PhD, please

Filed under: Community Science | Massospora | Matt Kasson — Dan @ 6:59 pm

Massospora cicadina is a fungus that infects Magicicada cicadas. They contract it when they are still in the soil, and then spread it during sex as adults. It contains amphetamine and it sends the cicadas into a mating frenzy. It makes males behave like female cicadas. It replaces their butt-ends with a white chalky fungal substance.

Massospora bae

Matt Kasson, PhD, of West Virginia University wants you to share the fungus-infected cicadas with him.
If you post a photo of a Massospora-infected cicada on iNaturalist, tag him @mperfectfunguy.
If you post a photo of the same thing on Twitter, tag him @ImperfectFunGuy.
Got a sack of fungus-infected cicadas? He might want them.

Here’s the text from his post on Twitter/X:

‼️ ATTENTION ‼️ It’s #EarthDay2024 and we need your help finding / collecting Massospora-infected zombie cicadas for research so please share and RT! Illustration????by Molly Sherlock.

If you somehow missed it, trillions of cicadas are beginning their emergence across the Midwest and Southern U.S. This is a rare double emergence of both 13-year and 17-year cicadas, both of which are known hosts of the zombie cicada fungus, Massospora cicadina!

We are hoping to collect many infected cicadas as possible, especially infected 13-year cicadas as we only have three total specimens in our collection and none from Brood XIX.

The best way to help is to upload your observations in either
@inaturalist
or
@CicadaSafari
. You can also tag me in Massospoara cicadina iNat posts (
@imperfectfunguy
). DMs are also open here for inquiries about next steps.

Receiving a heads up is as important as receiving actual specimens so no observation is insignificant.

Look for a chalky white fungal plug of M. cicadina emerging from the back of the abdomen on infected adults. Unlike many insect pathogens, Massospora does not kill its host so you will observe infected cicadas among a larger population of healthy cicadas.

He’s worth following on Twitter/X because it posts a lot of wild photos and illustrations like this.

More about Massospora:

Massospora papers:

August 23, 2018

Cordyceps infected Citrus Cicadas

Filed under: Cordyceps | Diceroprocta | Matt Kasson — Tags: — Dan @ 9:44 am

Here’s another fungi story coming from the WVU Kasson Lab: Cordyceps infected Citrus Cicadas (Diceroprocta apache).

The story goes like this: because of Ed Yong’s article about the Massospora fungus that infects cicadas, someone sent the Kasson Lab photos, and then samples, of Diceroprocta apache (Citrus Cicadas) infected with a different type of fungus: Cordyceps. Looks like the lab is going to study this fungus, and I’m sure they’ll produce a paper.

Ophiocordyceps infected Cicada Killer Wasp

Filed under: Cicada Killer Wasps | Matt Kasson | Ophiocordyceps — Dan @ 9:02 am

Graduate students at the West Virginia University’s Kasson Laboratory discovered a Cicada Killer Wasp (Sphecius speciosus) infected with Ophiocordyceps (a type of fungi). Ophiocordyceps can also infect cicadas.

July 25, 2018

Discovery of psychoactive plant & mushroom alkaloids in ancient fungal cicada pathogens

Filed under: Massospora | Matt Kasson — Dan @ 4:22 pm

Many cicada species suffer from fungal pathogens belonging to the genus Massospora. These fungi destroy the reproductive organs of males and cause them to behave like female cicadas — in the case of Magicicada cicadas, they flick their wings instead of singing — and they attempt to mate with other males, thus spreading the fungus.

A new paper has been published titled Discovery of psychoactive plant & mushroom alkaloids in ancient fungal cicada pathogens. Authors: Greg Boyce, Emile Gluck-Thaler, Jason C. Slot, Jason E. Stajich, William J. Davis, Tim Y. James, John R. Cooley, Daniel G. Panaccione, Jorgen Eilenberg, Henrik H. De Fine Licht, Angie M. Macias, Matthew C. Berger, Kristen L. Wickert, Cameron M. Stauder, Ellie J. Spahr, Matthew D. Maust, Amy M. Metheny, Chris Simon, Gene Kritsky, Kathie T. Hodge, Richard A. Humber, Terry Gullion, Dylan P. G. Short, Teiya Kijimoto, Dan Mozgai, Nidia Arguedas, Matthew T. Kasson. You can access it on biorxiv.

This new paper makes discoveries about the fungi.

Abstract:

Entomopathogenic fungi routinely kill their hosts before releasing infectious conidia, but select species keep their hosts alive while sporulating to enhance spore dispersal. Recent expression and metabolomics studies involving host-killing entomopathogens have helped unravel infection processes and host responses, yet the mechanisms underlying active host transmission in insects with Entomophthoralean fungal infections are completely unexplored. Here we report the discovery, through global and targeted metabolomics supported by metagenomics and proteomics, of the plant amphetamine, cathinone, in Massospora cicadina-infected periodical cicadas, and the mushroom tryptamine, psilocybin, in M. platypediae- and M. levispora-infected annual cicadas. The neurogenic activities of these alkaloids provide a hypothetical framework for a chemically induced extended phenotype of Massospora that alters cicada behavior by increasing endurance and suppressing feeding prior to death.

Massospora bae

October 8, 2017

Cicada Fungi Research

Filed under: Massospora | Matt Kasson — 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 has 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:

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

November 19, 2014

Which fungus attacks Magicicadas? Massospora cicadina

Filed under: FAQs | Magicicada | Massospora | Matt Kasson — Dan @ 8:32 pm

The fungus Massospora cicadina preys on Magicicadas cicadas. This is particularly interesting because the fungus is able to prey upon them in spite of their long 17 year life cycle (apparently fungi are not phased by prime numbers).

When the fungus destroys the abdomen of male cicadas, they will behave like female cicadas and flick their wings in response to the songs of male cicadas, and attempt to mate with other males.

A photo by Roy Troutman from Brood XIV (2008):

Magicicada with Massospora. Roy Troutman. Brood XIV.

Two photos by Dan Mozgai from Brood II (2013):

Male Magicicada septendecim infected with Massospora cicadina fungus

Magicicada septendecim with Massosporan fungus found at the Edison Memorial Tower Park in Edison NJ

Magicicada fungus (massospora cicadina)

magicicada fungus (massospora cicadina) from Roy Troutman on Vimeo.

New from 2017: the Massospora cicadina viewed under a microscope.

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