Cockroaches are one of the most widespread and resilient creatures on this planet.
They are practically everywhere around us, hiding in the walls, sewers, and perhaps
your cupboard. They are also one of the most hated creatures by humans.
If you are like most people, you will become determined to kill all of the roaches
when you see them in your house. Despite such hatred towards them, how do
cockroaches manage to thrive all around the globe?
You might not want to think about this, but over 3500 species of cockroaches
live on this planet. The good news? Only about 30 of those species have
adapted to live around humans. The bad news? 30 species of cockroaches
can live around us! Roaches are one of the most common pests in the US.
So it's no surprise that humans are always trying to kill them. But no matter
how many times we stomp them, squash them, and bomb them with toxic
chemicals, these pesky pests always seem to pop up time and time again.
So what's going on? Let's take a closer look at the roach you probably know
better than you'd like. Periplaneta Americana. Aka,the American Cockroach.
But this name is misleading. This guy is actually from Africa,not America.
It made its way to the US by infesting boats in the 16th century,and it's been
spreading to almost every corner in the world ever since. It turns out,it's one of
the largest species of cockroach around. But that's not the only big thing about it.
New research has revealed that it has a massive genome. One of the largest
of any studied insect. And may of these genes are exactly what make this roach
a master survivor. Let's start with the genes associated with something called
Chemoreception. That's how roaches smell and taste their environment.
Turns out they're actually way better at sniffing out and eating food than most
other insects. The American roach has 154 olfactory receptors for smell,
and 544 gustatory receptors for taste. More than any other insect on the planet.
As a result, these cockroaches are not picky eaters. Sure, they like cheese,
meat and sugar like the rest of us, but they'll also go for things like cardboard,
book bindings, human toenails,rotting meat, blood, excrement, and even each
other. That's right, these roaches have been known to eat other dead or
crippled cockroaches, all in the name of survival. It sounds gross, but this
diverse diet makes it easy to find a meal just about anywhere, even if it's
poisonous to most animals. This roach has a bunch of genes called Cytochrome
P450s, which help it withstand poisonous chemicals,like peppermint.
These genes code for detoxification enzymes, which keep the insect safe.
On top of that, this roach has a super-strong immune system that
seeks out and kills harmful microbes and fungi, making the most unsanitary
environment look like a five-start hotel to the American cockroach.
Not gross enough yet? Well consider this. Cockroaches can live nearly a week
without their heads. Yeah, that's not a myth. They don't have a highly pressurized
network of blood vessels like humans, so they don't bleed out. Instead, their necks
actually seal off the opening. They can't regenerate a whole head, but roaches to
have an impressive set of regenerative superpowers. For up to the first two years
of its life, the American roach goes through a series of regenerative molts as it
matures into an adult. During a single molt stage, it can replace lost limbs.
And over a series of molts, it can regrow antennae and even its eyes. Roaches
may be hard to kill, but there's an easy way to keep them clear of your kitchen.
Cleanliness. A roach just won't survive in unsanitary conditions, it actually enjoys
it. Its heightened senses mean it actually relishes rotting food. So, store food in
airtight containers. Cover trash bins, and keep your basement dry. It might also be
smart to plug holes in your walls, unused electrical outlets, and especially drains,
since get this, roaches can use your plumbing to climb up from sewers into your
bathroom sink. It might not eliminate the risk entirely, but it can't hurt, and it will
certainly make you feel better. However, we can't promise it will keep them out
of your nightmares.
1. How many species of cockroach are there?
2. What abilities do cockroaches have to survive?
3. What can we do to avoid cockroaches?