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Cicadas are getting infected with the fungus that makes them zombies



Cicadas are undergoing a parasitic infection that essentially turns them into zombies. You read like that. The fungus scientifically known as Massospora has infected male cycads for years, according to a journal by PLOS Pathogens as reported by LiveScience. It does not end here however. Like a zombie army, male cicada zombies begin to work toward increasing their numbers by luring into other male cicadas using a matchstick movement, traditionally used by female cicadas to lure mates.

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When uninfected male cicadas attempt to mate with the infected cicada after being seduced inside, Massospora is transferred and it begins to infect the new cicada by eating out in the abdomen. Replaces the abdomen with itself, which looks like a cluster of yellow spores.

It is clear that it is not easy to notice this transformation as a zombie, as the chicadas that are usually infected are of the genus Magicicada, which spend up to 17 years of their life on earth at one time. Fortunately for the scientists behind the PLOS Pathogens report, they are able to trace different populations of cicada that appear at different periods over a cycle of years.

Once the abdomen becomes a mass of spores, the now enlarged cicada will fly around and drop spores to infect even more cicadas. As for how Masospora controls this spore-flying flight and the mating call that occurs after infection, scientists are still not sure what chemicals inside the fungus are doing that.The life of an uninfected cicada after coming out of the ground years and years after birth would generally only last a few weeks. They unite, lay eggs, then die. When infected by Massospora, their life is extended but considering they are zombies at that point, it is not really alive.

If you are gathering for science like zombies, read how scientists are reviving 100-million-year-old underwater life forms. After that, read how a bionic jellyfish was created by scientists earlier this year.

Wesley LeBlanc is a freelance news writer and guide to IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @LeBlancWes.




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