Male Found in A particularly fierce parasitic fungus gets infected. dead body With an undercover mission: He transmitted a woman’s sexy moving message to other male cicadas, who were luring their unrivaled victims to join the zombie cicada gang.
Researchers recently discovered this unusual twist as Cicada’s already horrific zombification story. As the parasitic fungi are called Massospora One eats away from the cicada’s stomach, replacing it with a mass of yellow spores, Mushroom Forcing men to flick their wings in movements usually performed by women.
Healthy men who hurry for female company, then try to have intercourse with an infected male, who passes along Massospora Infection. How this and other new discoveries are helping scientists piece together Massospora According to a new study published online in the journal June 18, the brain turns into a controlled corpse PLOS Pathogens.
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This zombie – host relationship can be challenging to observe. Although the fungus can affect cicadas emerging every year, it has many cicada hosts Magicicada The genus, also known as cicada from time to time. These black-bodied and red-eyed cicadas live underground for 13 to 17 years (depending on species) as immature nymphs. Fortunately for scientists who study cycads that occur from time to time, local populations known as broods that follow this cycle emerge during different years in different locations.
Lead study author Brian Lovett, researcher at Plant and Soil Sciences at West Virginia University (WVU), said, “It would be very difficult to maintain a research program and train scientists if new samples arrived in only 13 to 17 years . ” .
“Road trips are very common among cicada researchers looking for trips and brews,” Lovett told Live Science in an email. “Sharing Brood”, other than following the brood [providing colleagues with access to collected specimens] Is also standard practice. ”
Once the cicads leave and melt their exoskeletons, they enjoy a few weeks of life on the surface, such as an adult, mating and laying eggs before dying.
However, for cicadas infected by Massospora, Life takes an ugly turn. About a week after being infected, the fungal spore eats cicada’s stomach and shatters its body – but the insect does not die. Rather, it continues to fly around and spreads to distant tombs in a process known as active host transmission (AHT), in which a parasite manipulates its living host.
As Lovett and his colleagues point out, one form of that manipulation forces infected men to imitate female behaviors, wooing their wings and infecting even more cicadas.
“To our knowledge, this is the only example of AHT in which the pathogen treats at least one sexually transmitted disease,” as transmission sometimes occurs when men attempt to mate with other men, The researchers wrote in the study.
The chemical signals responsible for the unnatural behavior of at least some cicadas are psychosomatic; Is one of psilocybin, Which is also found in hallucinogenic mushrooms, Live Science reported In 2019. But although scientists have identified some chemicals in Masospora fungi, the spore mechanism to control its cicada host has not yet been explained, according to the study.
“A co-author Angie Mackis, a WVI doctoral candidate, studyer” helps control pests using fungi, but these discoveries are not only super cool, but also have great potential to better understand insects, And perhaps learn better ways to control pests. , said in a statement.
“It is almost certain that the unseen are Massospora The species, never takes into account other AHT (active host transmission) fungi, and each of them has developed its own intimate relationship with the biology of its host, ”Macias said.
Originally published on Live Science.