Thursday, 2 August 2018

Zombie Insect Made Mad for Sex - By a Fungus

Cicada infected with Messospora fungus.
Photo credit: SuperStock
Parasite fungus sends insects on sex spree by loading them up on drugs | New Scientist

Here we have a very nice example of a host being controlled by a parasite, exactly as I discussed in my latest book, The Unintelligent Designer.

This time, it is a cicada which is controlled by fungi of the Massospora genus.

When infected by these fungi, the victims appetite is suppressed but their sex drive is heightened to the extent that males will spend all their time trying to mate, even with other males. To make it worse for the cicadas the fungus actually castrate them by making the end of their abdomen fall off when they first try to mate, replacing it with a fungal 'plug'.

The fungus later kills the host before releasing infectious conidia.

In a pre-print release of their paper, a large team of researchers report that they found the plant amphetamine, cathinone, in Massospora cicadina-infected periodical cicadas, and the mushroom tryptamine, psilocybin, in M. platypediae- and M. levispora-infected annual cicadas.

As I point out in my book, these examples of parasitic control of hosts are inexplicable in terms of intelligent design. Even a stupid designer would need to be at best indifferent to suffering and at worst, malevolent. The quite ludicrous complexity of this system, apparently for no other reason but to produce more fungi and possibly to make another of the putative designer's creations, cicadas, suffer, is the antithesis of good design. Unlike good design, this appears to be for no ultimate purpose unless making fungi is an ultimate purpose in the mind of a supposed designer.

Of course, creationists will immediately resort to 'The Fall' as an explanation for this appearance of malevolence in their putative maximally good God Intelligent (sic) Designer, so giving away the fact that ID is not an alternative scientific theory to explain biodiversity but creationism, dressed in an ill-fitting and grubby lab coat.

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  1. Hi Bill,
    It's part of my regular routine to read your blog. I always enjoy it, thanks.
    On his occasion I fear your spellchecker has let you down. In the third paragraph "apatite" should be "appetite".

    1. Thanks. Corrected, along with a couple of other typos. I changed my browser from Chrome to Firefox and the spell checker wasn't working. It is now.

  2. Sounds like an early David Cronenberg movie!


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