Massospora cicadina

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Massospora cicadina
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Zygomycota
Class: Zygomycetes
Order: Entomophthorales
Family: Entomophthoraceae
Genus: Massospora
Species: M. cicadina
Binomial name
Massospora cicadina

Massospora cicadina is a fungal pathogen that infects periodical cicadas resulting in infertility and death.

Life cycle[edit]

Spores of M. cicadina are capable of germinating and infecting cicadas at as little as one year; but may remain dormant for either 13 or 17 years before becoming active.[1] Cicadas first become infected by fungal spores as the nymphs prepare to leave the soil and become adults.[2] Early stages of the infection are completely concealed inside the abdomen of the cicada. At or near the death of the host, the rear segments of the abdomen fall off, revealing a white, chalky mass of the fungus, which actively produces and forcibly discharges spores. These spores are infective to other periodical cicadas, and create a secondary cycle of disease. At the end of this secondary cycle, the fungus produces a different kind of spores, which have thick, ornamented walls and are not directly infective to adult cicadas; these spores lie dormant in soil. The fungus renders both males and females sterile, though they may remain alive and mobile while discharging spores. Infected cicadas attempt to mate but cannot actually do so.[3] The fungus also alters the cicadas' sexual behaviors, such that Stage I infected males both call to females and respond to calling males, making them sexually attractive to members of both sexes.[4]


Massospora cicadina is considered a parasite. The fungus grows inside the abdomen of the host, before releasing its spores. The fungi can infect both male and female adult cicadas. Resting spores can remain in the soil for less than a year or as much as seventeen years between infecting populations.[1][3][4]


Species of the Massospora genus are believed to be found in all habitats of their host species; which includes large temperate ranges in the Southern and Northern hemisphere.[3]


  1. ^ a b Duke, L.; Steinkraus, D.C.; English, J.E.; Smith, K.G. (2002). "Infectivity of resting spores of Massospora cicadina (Entomophthorales: Entomophthoraceae), an entomopathogenic fungus of periodical cicadas (Magicicada spp.) (Homoptera: Cicadidae)". Journal of Invertebrate Pathology. 80 (1): 1–6. doi:10.1016/s0022-2011(02)00040-x. PMID 12234535.
  2. ^ Soper, Richard S.; Delyzer, Abraham J.; Smith, Laurence F.R. (1976). "The Genus Massospora Entomopathogenic for Cicadas. Part. II. Biology of Massospora levispora and Its Host Okanagana rimosa, with Notes on Massospora cicadina on the Periodical Cicadas". Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 69 (1): 89–95. doi:10.1093/aesa/69.1.89.
  3. ^ a b c Speare, A.T. (March 1921). "Massospora cicadina Peck: A Fungous Parasite of the Periodical Cicada". Mycologia. Mycological Society of America. 13 (2): 72–82. doi:10.2307/3753297.
  4. ^ a b Cooley, J.; Marshall, D.; Hill, K. (2018). "A specialized fungal parasite (Massospora cicadina) hijacks the sexual signals of periodical cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae: Magicicada)". Scientific Reports. 8 (1): 1432. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-19813-0.

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