"Flying Salt Shakers of Death"

Fungal Hallucinogens Send Cicadas on Sex Binges After Their Genitals Fall Off

Even as the cicada bodies turn mouldy and start losing parts -- including bits of their abdomen and their genitals -- they don't slow down.

"Infected adults maintain or accelerate normal host activity during sporulation, enabling rapid and widespread dispersal prior to host death," says Kasson. [...]

In four cicadas infected with M. cicadina they found signs of a plant-derived alkaloid called cathinone, a compound similar to ephedrine. It's possible that the stimulant could have evolved in the fungus to keep their hosts' appetites down and give them a boost to get them through those long days of plague orgies.

Another fungal pathogen called M. levispora was also associated with raised levels of a tryptamine called psilocybin - the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms. This one might not come as much of a surprise. There's good reason to suspect the chemical evolved in fungi as a way to suppress insect appetites, changing their behaviour in a dissuasive fashion.

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6 Responses:

  1. Thomas Lord says:

    So, like:

    > "In four [patients] infected with the spores they found signs of a plant-derived alkaloid called cathinone, a compound similar to ephedrine. It's possible that the stimulant could have evolved in the fungus to keep their hosts' appetites down and give them a boost to get them through those long days of plague orgies," concluded the doctor.

    > "And the hangings?" Noah had already sussed out that the final convulsions and ejaculation of the hanged likely spread the fungus to new recruits but how did the Ashers orchestrate these rituals again and again without themselves succumbing.

    > "We suspect a symbiotic partial immunity," blurted the doctor, his face lighting up at such a keen question. His eyes darted about the room and his tongue darted about his lips like a snake tasting the air. "The 'high priests', if you will, are able to metabolise the cathinone into a substance that at once limits the spread of the fungus in their body and produces a different psychoactive compound that gives rise to their vampiric recruitment behaviors. We have not yet been able to confirm that these priests are able to retain their genitals."

    > "I can confirm," reported Noah, "but they don't seem to use them for much. Is it possible these effects give the priests exceptionally long lifespans?"

    > The doctor looked surprised and aghast. "It...it's not a possibility we'd thought to look for."

    > "Thank you, as always, Doctor." Noah was on the next train to Chicago.

    Nature is just gods' way of letting us know that William S. Burroughs wrote this timeline.

  2. Billy says:

    Ah, to be young again... and also a zombie cicada.

  3. phuzz says:

    See, when you say 'flying salt-shaker of death', I thought you meant this.

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