Mind-controlling fungus makes zombie cicadas lure other cicadas to a zombie fate
[LIVE SCIENCE] Male cicadas infected by a particularly gruesome parasitic fungus become zombies with an undercover mission: They broadcast a female's sexy come-hither message to other male cicadas, luring their unsuspecting victims to join the zombie cicada horde.
Researchers recently discovered this unusual twist to the cicada's already horrific zombification story. As the parasitic fungus called Massospora eats away at a cicada's abdomen, replacing it with a mass of yellow spores, the fungus also compels males to flick their wings in movements that are typically performed by females to attract mates.
Healthy males that hurry over for female company, then try to mate with the infected male, which passes along the Massospora infection. This and other new discoveries are helping scientists to piece together how Massospora turns cicadas into mind-controlled zombies, according to a new study published online June 18 in the journal PLOS Pathogens.
This zombie-host relationship can be challenging to observe. Though the fungus can affect cicadas that emerge annually, many of its cicada hosts are in the Magicicada genus, also known as periodical cicadas. These black-bodied and red-eyed cicadas spend 13 to 17 years (depending on the species) underground as immature nymphs. Luckily for the scientists who study periodical cicadas, local populations known as broods that follow this cycle emerge during different years in different locations.
Posted by: Besoeker 2020-08-02