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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.


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


  1. Timothy Leary says:

    It’s a loud buzz.
    Now I know why!

  2. Infinite being says:

    Hi Cameron I just had to comment I myself was on a big search stumbled across this comment and I’m in Manchester New Jersey LOL! blessings. may we all respect our mother earth.

    1. Cameron says:

      Blessings to you to. And yes may we all respect our Mother Earth!

  3. Cameron says:

    Hey Dan, just wanted to let you know that I had an amazing night last night searching for Megatibicen Auletes in Manchester, NJ. I had a few slices of pizza in Caballeros Pizza, then went searching. I heard many Auletes around dusk, and found one live nymph ascending a tree. The fact that i’ve never heard Megatibicen Auletes before made it 10 times more fun.

  4. Cameron says:

    Hey Dan, just wanted to let you know what a night I had down in Manchester New Jersey last night. I went to Caballeros Pizza, had a few slices, then went searching for Megatibicen Auletes. Heard many Auletes and found one live nymph. The fact that I never heard of or seen that species before made it ten times more fun. Just wanted to let you know that I had a great time!

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