"what exactly makes them so deadly to microbial life has proven illusive"
but not as elusive as using the correct word....
The US Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory has finally completed the installation of the Aurora supercomputer after a bevy of delays but scientists are already clamoring to put it to work. Boffins have been waiting on the system for years. Literally. The system was originally supposed to come online in 2021 but …
> write in US English
Yabbut, this isn't an ax/axe color/colour issue, nor even an elevator/lift one. "Elusive" and "Illusive" are different words with usefully different meanings (although almost exactly the same correct pronunciation).
Elusive a. 1719. That eludes or seeks to elude; also fig.
Illusive a. 1679. That tends to illude; productive of illusion or false impression; deceptive; illusory.
Elusive things are good at evading and escaping, illusive things are productive of wrong conclusions. In this context, i.e. the cicada wings, the wrong adjective is very wrong.
Agreed. While prescriptivism in English diction and usage is no more than wishful thinking, I doubt you'd find many educated people in the US who think "illusive" is an acceptable substitution for "elusive" even in AmEng. It's a straightforward homophonic confusion.
(Alas, we've lost the similar fight against "insure" versus "ensure", but then those two share an etymology – unlike elusive/illusive – and "insure" as a variant of "ensure" has been in use for centuries. Nothing to be done about it now.)