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The Fascinating World of Cicadas and Fungal Infections

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20 Questions

What is the primary source of food for cicadas?

Xylem liquids

What is the common misconception about cicadas?

They are a type of locust

Where are the species of cicadas that spend 17 years underground primarily found?

Northeastern United States

What is the name of the fungus that infects cicadas?

Massospora cicadina

What percentage of cicadas are infected by the fungus Massospora cicadina?

2-5%

What is the unusual behavior displayed by infected male cicadas?

They act like sexually receptive females

What is the purpose of the cicadas' underground life?

To develop and grow

What is the name of the group of cicadas that last emerged in 2002?

Brood Number Eight

What is the genus of the periodical cicadas mentioned in the text?

Magicicada

How often do the periodical cicadas in the area emerge?

Every 13 or 17 years

What is the main difference in diet between cicadas and locusts?

Cicadas eat xylem liquids, while locusts eat soft plant tissues

What is the result of Massospora cicadina infection on cicadas?

Their abdomens fall off

Why do infected cicadas display altered behavior?

To spread the fungal spores

What is the geographic distribution of the cicadas that spend 13 years underground?

More southerly in the United States

What is the name of the cicada group that the narrator is searching for?

Brood Number Eight

How long do periodical cicadas typically spend underground?

13 or 17 years

What is the primary role of xylem liquids in cicadas' diet?

Supplying water and nutrients

Why are cicadas not closely related to locusts?

They are not closely related to grasshoppers

What is the result of the cicadas' underground life?

They develop unique adaptations

What is the purpose of the narrator's search for the fungus?

To understand the fungus's role in cicada ecology

Study Notes

  • The narrator is in an area where periodical cicadas are abundant, and they find the sound of their buzzing fascinating.
  • Cicadas are not true crickets, and although some people mistakenly refer to them as locusts, they are not closely related to locusts, which are actually more closely related to grasshoppers.
  • Cicadas feed primarily on xylem liquids, which contain water, amino acids, and minerals, whereas locusts feed on leaves and soft plant tissues.
  • The periodical cicadas in the area belong to the genus Magicicada and are found throughout the eastern and central United States.
  • These cicadas spend most of their lives underground and emerge every 13 or 17 years, depending on the region and species.
  • The species that spend 17 years underground have a more northerly distribution in the United States, while those that emerge every 13 years have a more southerly distribution.
  • The cicadas in the area at the time of filming belong to Brood Number Eight, which last emerged in 2002.
  • The narrator is searching for a fungus that infects these cicadas, causing their abdomens to fall off and altering their behavior.
  • The fungus is a pathogenic fungus known as Massospora cicadina, which infects around 2-5% of cicadas.
  • Infected cicadas display strange behavior, such as males acting like sexually receptive females, and can spread the fungal spores far and wide.
  • The fungal spores can remain dormant for over a dozen years, awaiting the emergence of the next brood of periodical cicadas.
  • The fungus contains the alkaloid compound cathinone, a naturally occurring amphetamine found in certain plants, which may cause infected cicadas to be more active in spreading fungal spores.
  • Researchers have also found that other species of Massospora that infect annual cicadas contain the mind-altering compounds psilocybin and ibotenic acid, which are responsible for the hallucinogenic effects produced by certain mushrooms.
  • Despite the majority of periodical cicadas showing no signs of fungal infection, the narrator finds the hunt to locate infected cicadas thrilling and rewarding.

Delve into the intriguing world of periodical cicadas, their unique characteristics, and the fascinating fungal infection that affects them. Learn about the different species, their behavior, and the mind-altering compounds found in the fungus. Explore the fascinating relationship between cicadas and the Massospora fungus.

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