Brood XIII 2007 - June 7th
News Category: Cicada Missions
Brood XIII 2007 - June 7th
We met up with two researchers from the US Navy. They were given permission to set up their equipment in this rickety old barn with a dirt floor on a couple of work horses covered with plywood by the rangers at Jubilee College State Park. We were at the back of the park headquarters away from the general public. They had all kinds of measuring equipment which took them a very long time to set up.
Time to Get Some Volunteers (Specimens) for the Experiments.
While the researchers were setting up, John Cooley and myself went around gathering specimens. This gave me an ideal opportunity for a breather. The last few days I had spent driving around taking data points. Now I could actually spend more time with the cicadas and study them. First thing I noticed was how unusually loud the M. septendecims and M. cassinis where today. It was getting up into the 90's and the Magicicadas were loving it. Click the thumbnail to the right above and watch this 30 second video of the Magicicadas calling at Jubilee College State Park where the experiments were taking place.
Like at Lincoln's New Salem State Historic site a few days ago, I noticed in several locations that the Magicicada females were laying eggs in just about any soft twig that they could find. If things go well hopefully the eggs that hatch into the first instar nymphs will carry Brood XIII for another 17 years and will emerge again in 2024.
Anxiety Sets In!!
I can't believe it, I just had a slight anxiety attack. In 17 years when the cicadas from this brood re-appear, I'll be 60 years old!! Man, that is just freaking me out!! Seventeen years really isn't all that long from now!! Man, this is depressing :( Oh well, click the thumbnail above and to the left to check out this plant that has several egg slits with Magicicada eggs inside.
The Beast With Two Heads!!
Actually these mating M. cassini look like a pair of Siamese twins. As I was walking around collecting specimens for the experiments, I discovered these two M. cassini in the parking lot of one of the picnic areas doing "the nasty". One seemed to be walking while at the same time pulling the other along. I snapped this picture when they were standing still. Click the thumbnail to the right for a closer view.
Massospora cicadina Fungal Infection Alive and Well
As previously reported on the Brood XIII Magicicadas in Northern Illinois, incidences of the Massospora cicadina Fungal infection was apparent everywhere. However, in the Southern part of Illinois, the Magicicada populations just seemed to me to be a lot more "healthier" than their northern counterparts. I mentioned this in a brief conversation to Kathy Hill and David Marshall as well. Evidence of the fungal pathogen was rarely seen but it was present. Well today I ran across the first indication of the Massospora cicadina infection in a specimen at Jubilee State Park. This M. cassini was missing its entire abdomen and was still alive, wings and legs in-tact.
How Massospora cicadina is Transmitted.
This infection is actually spread via sexual contact. Male Magicicadas carry fungal hyphae (microscopic fungus strands) in their sperm and the female Magicicadas carry actual spores in their spermatheca (a specialized structure designed to receive a male Magicicada's sperm plug).
When infected cicadas mate, the infection is passed on to the next generation of Magicicadas. When the eggs hatch the fungal infection actually lies dormant in the first instar nymphs and lives within them for their entire 17 year juvenile development cycle. When it is time to emerge the fungal spore infestation "wakes up" and the spores multiply inside the abdominal cavities of both sexes until they pop. Sometimes, male and female Magicicadas are able to mate and lay eggs before the spores activate, thus infecting the next generation.
It has even been reported that some Magicicadas who are missing their abdomens still attempt to mate despite no longer having the genitalia necessary to perform the act!
Interesting Magicicada septendecim behavior.
Like I mentioned previously, I feel myself fortunate to be able to work with John Cooley and David Marshall of UCONN. These guys have basically made it their life's' work to study and learn the behavior of Periodical Cicadas. To that end, I guess you can say that they virtually wrote the book on Magicicada behavior and today, I was able to see what they learned first-hand, because, well, they passed it on to me and I - in-turn - will pass it on to you.
Please note, that some of these Magicicada behaviors that I will be showing you while written about extensively by John and Dave, I don't think that these behaviors were ever video-taped. Is that suspense enough for you? :P
Magicicada septendecim males have Three Distinct Calls.
First Stage M. septendecim Call
You probably have heard this call of M. septendecim on numerous occasions. It basically starts out at a high pitch then goes low until it stops. Get a group of M. septendecims together and they will sound like the typical hovering UFO's. For the record click the thumbnail to the right to hear the first stage call of a single M. septendecim male.
Second Stage M. septendecim Call and Female Wing-Flick Response.
This is where things start to get interesting. When a male M. septendecim calls, if there is a female nearby and it is interested, the female will respond at the end of the male's call by giving a wing-flick.
This will cause the male to call out again. The female will wing flick again. All the while, the male tries to "zero-in" on where the female is. Keep in mind that there are also other males in the area so this wing-flick response is directed at only one male. But other males in the area who also hear the female wing-flicking will call as well.
John and Dave have learned this behavior through extensive study and have even learned to imitate the calling of the male M. septendecim by whistling and to simulate a female wing-flick response by either snapping fingers at the precise moment after the male's call or with the use of a light switch.
So, if you have a male M. septendecim and whistle to simulate a male's calling then flick the light switch (or snap your fingers), you can get the male to do a first-stage call.
Do this several times and you can get the male to a second-stage call which basically is a first-stage call at a faster tempo with little pause in between. Click the thumbnail to the left to watch this amazing video. John was able to get two (2) males to court each other by doing the fake wing-flicking.
Third and Final Stage M. septendecim Call - with Visualization Prop.
If you noticed in the above video, one of the male M. septendecims went into third stage call, which is the point just before copulation. This call actually sounds like a rapid-fire "chirp". The male got to this stage because it assumed that the other male was a female due to John's "flicking" of the cicada's wing. That is because the male doing the calling had a "visual queue".
In this next video, it is basically the same thing. The male M. septendecim goes into third-stage calling mode because John used the light-switch to simulate the wing flick and the switch itself was the visual queue. Notice in the video how the specimen tries to engage its genitalia with the light switch. Click the thumbnail to the right.
Note: In the interest of trying to keep the US Navy and our government happy, I was left with specific instructions not to talk about the nature of the experiments in great detail. I think I can show some photos and I can even show some video but I just cannot talk about the nature of the experiments that went on.
Navy Experiment Number 1 - Working Out the Bugs
Man, I sure hope I don't get into trouble with these next videos. If you don't see any more updates you know that i've been "cleaned". Suffice it to say, I'm just going to show it but not try to explain it. This is just one of the experiments that we did using male M. septendecims. Our methods were crude at first because these types of experiments have never been done before. But as time went on, our methods became more refined. More on these future experiments later. Click the thumbnail to the left to watch a brief movie.
Now that you know that we can simulate a female wing-flick response we could get the M. septendecim to call easily enough.
Navy Experiment #2 - Mike and Gerry Clown Around
Since I was doing all the recording with my digital camera, I got a great shot of Mike Neckermann at a funny moment. Click the thumbnail to the left to watch Navy Experiment #2. Hey, science is supposed to be fun isn't it?
Well, that's about it for this update. Hopefully you've read everything and enjoyed the videos. I'd like to leave you 'til the next update with a still photo of the above specimen in the video.