A Fungus Is Pushing Cicada Sex Into Hyperdrive And Leaving Them Dismembered (npr.org)

After 17 years underground, the Brood X periodical cicadas are slowly emerging in 15 states across the East Coast and Midwest. From a report:

They'll shed their skins and spend four to six weeks mating before the females lay eggs and they all die. But some of them are getting wilder in their short lives above ground. A fungus called Massospora, which can produce compounds of cathinone -- an amphetamine -- infects a small number of them and makes them lose control. The fungus takes over their bodies, causing them to lose their lower abdomen and genitals. And it pushes their mating into hyperdrive.

"This is stranger than fiction," Matt Kasson, an associate professor of forest pathology and mycology at West Virginia University, tells NPR's All Things Considered. "To have something that's being manipulated by a fungus, to be hypersexual and to have prolonged stamina and just mate like crazy." Kasson, who has been studying Massospora for about five years, says just before the cicadas rise from the ground, the spores of the fungus start to infect the bug. Once it's above ground and starts to shed its skin to become an adult, its butt falls off. Then a "white plug of fungus" starts to grow in its place.

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