- A third batch of “zombie cicadas” with “disturbing display of B-horror movie proportions” was found in West Virginia.
- These cicadas have been infected by the parasitic Massospora fungus.
- The fungus eats away at the cicadas bodies, replacing the lost tissues with fungal tissues.
- Despite this, the insects stay alive while the fungus controls their minds.
- As a result, the infected cicadas become sex-crazed and transmits the fungus into healthy cicadas.
A new population of cicadas plagued by parasitic fungus Massospora – dubbed as “zombie cicadas” – has been found in West Virginia once again, said a research team in West Virginia University.
In a press release, researchers shared that this is the third group of “zombie cicadas” found in West Virginia. These cicadas were found to be under the influence of a Massospora, a psychedelic fungus with hallucinogenic components. It is these components that eat away the cicadas’ bodies and control their minds.
How the Massospora Fungus Works
One of the study’s co-authors, Matthew Kasson, says that the “zombie cicadas” got its name because of the effect of the parasitic Massospora.
The Massospora spores consume the cicada’s body, starting from the genitals. After that, the butt and the abdomen disappear “like an eraser on a pencil.”
The lost body parts are then replaced with fungal tissues.
As the name suggests, the infected insects stay alive and continue nteracting with others, maximizing spore dispersal.
In other words, like “zombies”, the infected cicadas function normally – a unique quality of the insect-killing fungi, Massospora. The infection also leads to hypersexual behavior.
That said, even when their backsides become fungal plugs, the cicadas still sexually-transmit the fungus to healthy cicadas.
While sexual transmission is fast, the Massospora spores can also spread through other ways.
‘I love them,’ said West Virginia University professor Mark Kasson.
“We call them flying saltshakers of death because they basically spread the fungus the way salt would come out of a shaker that’s tipped upside down.”
An army of “zombie cicadas” may sound scary, but Kasson pointed out it does not affect humans. Researchers also believe that it is not yet a serious threat to the cicada population.
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