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dead bug

Seventeen-year cicadas, Magicicada septendecim, have pretty amazing life cycles. The larvae live underground for, you know, seventeen years, sucking the roots of trees. They then emerge and eclose en masse, make an enormous racket, mate, oviposit, and die. Many, many of them die prematurely from this fungus in the Entomophthorales, Massospora cicadina. The fungus appears to attack the emerging adults as they burrow up through the soil to begin their adult life. It doesn't attack any other hosts; it too has a seventeen year life cycle. Even as the cicadas fly, looking for mates, the fungus begins to sporulate in their abdomens, leading to the bizarre abdominal truncation shown here. Of course, a cicada infected this way can't mate, since it's missing the parts, but that doesn't stop it from trying. It's an orgy for cicada and fungus alike. It's such an astonishing phenomenon (don't you think?) that it makes my hair stand up in amazement.

Photo: Kent Loeffler