Zombie cicadas were discovered in the USA, which is the epicenter of a new type of coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in the world. The fireflies, whose minds were controlled by a mushroom with chemical effects, remained a threat to the local population, but remained on the agenda of the scientific world.
In the USA, researchers from the University of West Virginia discovered a new population of cicada infected by a parasitic fungus.
In the study published in PLOS Pathogens, it was stated that these insects, called “zombie cicadas”, were under the influence of Masscopora, a psychedelic mushroom containing chemicals similar to those found in hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Massaspora controls the minds of insects and forces them to reproduce, increasing the number of infected insects.
Brian Lovett, co-author of the study, said that Massospora spores first destroyed a third of his body by eating the cicada’s genitals, hips and bellies. Then, when other cicadas approach each other for breeding purposes, spores are moved to others.
According to study author Matthew Kasson, infected cicadas in West Virginia by university researchers in June are the third cicada community discovered to be infected by Massospora.
Scientists have reported that it is very difficult to study how Massospora affects these species, as cicadas have a life cycle of 13 or 17 years and live underground until they appear ten years later.
While almost a third of its body is replaced by fungal tissue, infected cicadas continue to act unaware of their disease. Because mushrooms manipulate their behavior to keep the hosts, the cicadas alive, instead of killing them to maximize the spread of the sport.
“We would probably be helpless if one of our limbs was removed or our stomach was cut. But infected cicadas continue their activities, such as mating and flying, as if nothing had happened, despite a third of their bodies falling down. This provides a truly unique environment for mushrooms,” said Kasson.
The study, however, pays attention to the latest findings, including the infection causing hypersexual behavior in insects. Infected cicadas continue to mate to sexually transmit the fungus to healthy cicadas, although their backs lose their ability to mate when they become fungal plugs. The parasite mushroom mimics the female mating invitation and manipulates male cicadas to bend their wings. Thus the disease spreads rapidly in the population.
Researchers believe that sexually transmitting the fungus is the easiest way to spread Massospora. On the other hand, although an army of zombie cicada sounds scary, Kasson explained that infected cicadas are not a danger to humans. Currently, researchers believe the fungus poses a serious risk to the general cicada population.
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