Cicadas are succumbing to a parasitic infection that basically turns them into zombies.
You read that right. The fungus scientifically known as Massospora has been infecting male cicadas for years, according to a journal from PLOS Pathogens as reported by LiveScience. It doesn’t end there though. Much like a zombie army, the male cicada zombies begin to work toward growing their numbers by luring in other male cicadas using a flickering wing movement traditionally used by female cicadas to lure in male mates.
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When the non-infected male cicadas attempt to mate with the infected cicada after being lured in, the Massospora is transferred and it begins to infect the new cicada by eating away at its abdomen. It replaces the abdomen with itself, which looks like a grouping of yellow spores.
It’s apparently not easy to spot this zombie-like transformation occur as the cicadas usually infected are of the Magicicada genus, which spend up to 17 years of their life underground at a time. Fortunately for the scientists behind the PLOS Pathogens report, they’re able to track different populations of cicada emerging at different times through a cycle of years.
Once the abdomen is transformed into a mass of spores, the now-zombified cicada will fly around and drop spores to infect even more cicada. As to how the Massospora controls this spore-dropping flight and the mating call that occurs after infection, scientists aren’t yet sure which chemicals within the fungus are making that happen.
A non-infected cicada’s life after emerging from the ground years and years after it is born would generally only last a few weeks. They mate, lay eggs, then die. When infected by the Massospora, their life is prolonged but considering they are zombies at that point, it’s not really living.
If you’re clamoring for zombie-like science, read about how scientists are resurrecting 100-million-year-old underwater lifeforms. After that, read about how a bionic moon jellyfish was created by scientists earlier this year.
Wesley LeBlanc is a freelance news writer and guide maker for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @LeBlancWes.
Source: IGN.com Cicadas Are Being Infected With Fungus That Makes Them Zombies