F Rosa Rubicondior: Malevolent Design - Zombie Cicadas and Massospora cicadina

Tuesday 11 August 2020

Malevolent Design - Zombie Cicadas and Massospora cicadina

Return of the zombie cicadas: WVU team unearths manipulative qualities of fungal-infected flyers | WVU Today | West Virginia University

Creationism's malevolent designer is never short of ideas for ever-more grotesque and repugnant ideas for making life for its creation just a little more unpleasant. It has now come up with a design for a fungus that takes over cicadas that have spent years underground before emerging briefly to find a mate, lay eggs and die. This example will feature in my forthcoming book, "The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is not Good", the sequel to my popular book, "The Unintelligent Designer: Refuting the Intelligent Design Hoax"

The 13 and 17-year cicadas of the Magicicada genus, so called because of the periodicity of their emergence from an underground larval existence to a mature, reproducing adult, can become infected with a fungus of the Massospora genus, such as Massospora cicadina. This fungus times its production of reproductive spore to coincide with the emergence of these cicadas when it forms a mass of spore-bearing structures to replace the end of the male’s abdomen which falls off, making it sterile and eventually killing it.

Males infected with the fungus are induced to mimic female mating behaviour – flicking their wings in response to the mating calls of males to invite mating. They will also tolerate mounting by another male. A male which attempt to mate with an infected male then becomes infected and passes the fungus on to females with whom it mates successfully. The strategy is to infect as many adult cicadas as possible.

Infected cicadas of both sexes spend time just walk around, dragging their abdomen to spread spores in the soil.

Infected adults are the source of spores which are scattered widely in the environment to lie dormant in the soil where they infect the next generation as the nymphs emerge 13 or 17 years later. The fungus appears to coordinate its maturation into the infective stage with the period of the periodic cicada.

There are about a dozen species of Massospora each of which is specific to a species of cicada. Studies have shown that when in the body of its host, these fungi produce psychoactive compounds, amphetamine, cathinone, psilocin and psilocybin to manipulate the insect’s behaviour

This and many more examples of parasitic organisms manipulating their host in the interests of the parasites will be in my book, "The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is not Good", out soon in Paperback and ebook for Kindle.

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