Sunday Sketch: Zombie Cicadas

Periodical cicadas, mentioned before on this blog, use their prime numbered development and emergence cycles to throw off predators. However, these cicadas face other threats such as the fungal pathogens Massospora platypediae and Massospora levispora. These fungi ‘zombify’ male cicadas, causing them to lose body parts but still remain active. The fungi cause males to exhibit hypersexual behaviors: broadcasting wing-produced noises made by females to attract mates and roaming around trying to mate with whatever they encounter. By manipulating their hosts into performing these behaviors, the fungi ensure they can spread their spores as much as possible.

Sketch contributed by Cassidy Cooper. Fact contributed by Adrian Perez

[Edited by Adrian Perez]


Boyce, G. R., Gluck-Thaler, E., Slot, J. C., Stajich, J. E., Davis, W. J., James, T. Y., … & Kasson, M. T. (2019). Psychoactive plant-and mushroom-associated alkaloids from two behavior modifying cicada pathogens. Fungal ecology41, 147-164.

Cooley, J. R., Marshall, D. C., & Hill, K. B. (2018). A specialized fungal parasite (Massospora cicadina) hijacks the sexual signals of periodical cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae: Magicicada). Scientific Reports8(1), 1-7.

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