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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.

1 Comment

  1. P. Toerner says:

    Be careful to avoid letting pets eat Cicada’s in any stages on infection. They have dangerous psychoactive compounds, similar to designer drugs commonly know as “Bath Salts”, these are highly dangerous compounds.

    “The fruiting bodies of M. cicadina on Stage I infected adult cicadas, are observed to possess a substituted amphetamine alkaloid, cathinone.”

    Source:
    Psychoactive plant- and mushroom-associated alkaloids from two behavior modifying cicada pathogens
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6876628/

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