So Unhip Your Bums Fall Off
July 30, 2018 10:36 AM   Subscribe

“I thought: Oh, crap,” he says. “Then I thought: OH CRAP. The DEA is going to come in here, tase me, and confiscate my flying saltshakers.”

"That ignominious fate regularly befalls America’s cicadas. These bugs spend their youth underground, feeding on roots. After 13 or 17 years of this, they synchronously erupt from the soil in plagues of biblical proportions for a few weeks of song and sex. But on their way out, some of them encounter the spores of a fungus called Massospora... Massospora and its butt-eating powers were first discovered in the 19th century, but Kasson and his colleagues have only just shown that it has another secret: It doses its victims with mind-altering drugs."
posted by oneirodynia (20 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Despite how upset it would make Tina Belcher, I love how often the author mentions the cicada's lack of butts.
posted by Grither at 11:10 AM on July 30, 2018 [7 favorites]

Cicadas: what what
posted by GuyZero at 11:12 AM on July 30, 2018 [10 favorites]

Wait a sec. "mushrooms evolved psilocybin to reduce the appetites of insects that might compete with them for decaying wood. "

I was under the impression they were more of a 'grows in dung' like the store white-button type and not a mushroom that likes wood like Oyster.

And if your choice of diet is a wood or a fungus which is taking the wood and making protein - I'm not sure the article got that quote right. Wonder how many researchers will now look at fungus -> drug -> insect control now that someone has shown that is a thing.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:13 AM on July 30, 2018

2. A plant gives a babie. A weird babie? Not so weird as you thought. Okay, okay, just kick it back and relax! No worries at all. The babie will come and you will be happy and everything is fine. Lay yourself down by the plant. Close an eye and then another eye. Listen to the music.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:31 AM on July 30, 2018 [25 favorites]

I love nature but srsly fuck nature forever

Also, there was a cicada cycle in the spring of 1996, when I was in 11th grade, and I always thought that my cohorts all went a little crazy and wild because of hormones, but what if cicada butt-fungus drugs being constantly crunched underfoot and inhaled
posted by infinitewindow at 11:42 AM on July 30, 2018 [8 favorites]

2. A plant gives a babie.

Just in case anyone hasn't read "Instruction for a Help" yet, you are in the enviable position of being able to read "Instruction for a Help" for the first time.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 11:50 AM on July 30, 2018 [15 favorites]

I, for one, welcome our, um *giggles* um fungus lords, or whatever
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:52 AM on July 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

Horror movie time! Night of the No-Butt Cicadas!
posted by geeklizzard at 12:11 PM on July 30, 2018

If you're fascinated by weird nature and also enjoy indie comics, you need to find a copy of Safari Honeymoon by Jesse Jacobs.
posted by oulipian at 12:38 PM on July 30, 2018

MetaFilter: this behavior only benefits the fungus, allowing its spores to find new hosts.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:43 PM on July 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

Besides the example of Ophiocordyceps in the article, there certainly may be other parasites which alter behavior of the host, including humans. It brought to mind the recent article that reported increased prevalence of antibodies to Toxoplama in business students and entrepreneurs. Weak statistical correlation, correlation is not causation, yeah, yeah, but interesting. That’s only the most recent behavioral effect possibly attributed to Toxoplasmosis.

Or maybe Toxoplasma antibodies are a surrogate marker for cat ownership and it’s cats who are responsible for capitalism.
posted by sudogeek at 1:18 PM on July 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

Holy shit! A 30 year old minor mystery has been solved for me. Back in 1987, I was walking home from a Virginia Metro station after work when I noticed a cicada flying near me, even more clumsily than cicadas normally fly. I caught it, and discovered that it was just a flying head and thorax. I thought maybe a bird had bitten it, but the opening was dusty and dry, not like it had just been cut.

Now I know why the butt fell off!
posted by tavella at 2:22 PM on July 30, 2018 [11 favorites]

Many, many moons ago I was particularly fond of silly-cybin and I'm pretty sure my butt fell off on a regular basis. Don't remember sprinkling any spores but my memories are understandably vague on that point...
posted by jim in austin at 2:37 PM on July 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Despite their horrific injuries, males become hyperactive and hypersexual ... None of this does them any good—their genitals have either been devoured by the fungus or have fallen off with the rest of their butts.

Oh sweet mercy no.
posted by ZaphodB at 3:34 PM on July 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

you are in the enviable position of being able to read "Instruction for a Help" for the first time

Indeed you are, and here's a working Instruction for a Help link; the one in the MeFi post linked above has rotted. Or perhaps been eaten by cicacdas.
posted by flabdablet at 4:08 PM on July 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

Deeply weird and fascinating.
posted by theora55 at 5:46 PM on July 30, 2018

The horrifying up-close filming in some episode of maybe BBC Earth of an ant which is infected and is carried by a nestmate a long way away and it climbs up a high blade of grass and then a spike shoots out the top of its head and spores drop from it (which is why the ant carried it far away from the next) is something that has been more nightmare fuelish for me than anything I've encountered in the past decade.

Fungus can do weird things to bugs because of how they're built, I'm guessing.
posted by hippybear at 8:26 PM on July 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

Flying saltshakers of death. Seriously, how could you leave that out of the lede
posted by fungible at 6:01 AM on July 31, 2018

BOO, you beat me to posting this. YAY, another gnarly tale of decorticating psychedelic warfare from the fungal kindgom!
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:10 AM on July 31, 2018

Coz the shroom fungus got em and their butts just dropped.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 10:50 AM on July 31, 2018

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