Sci saw the PR announcement for this paper, and I TOTALLY wanted to cover it. Unfortunately, I was prevented by severe Katsaridaphobia. Luckily, I contacted the Fantastic Bug_Girl, who was VERY pleased to take this on for me! Many kudos to Bug_Girl, esp since I only had to start freaking out when I uploaded the photos. 🙂 And make sure to stay to the end for an ENTOMOLOGICAL CHRISTMAS CAROL!!!
Most humans–and I include quite a few entomologists in that category–love to hate roaches. This is a sad thing, because the vast majority of roaches never set foot (feet?) in a kitchen. The few species that tap-dance around in your sugar bowl are just a tiny piece of a huge spectrum of amazing roachy biodiversity in the world.
Over 99% of all roach species are innocent soil and forest dwellers, and are important for ecosystem functioning. Some of them can leap like grasshoppers. Some of them can run 4 times faster than a cheetah (well, in terms of body lengths traveled per second, anyway.) The group of insects with the highest frequency of parental care? Roaches. One estimate puts roaches at 24% of all arthropod biomass in tree canopies, and 43% of arthropod biomass in alluvial forests. There are a LOT of roaches in the world, and you’ve never seen or heard of most of them. H. E. Evans may have said it best:
“The study of roaches may lack the aesthetic values of bird-watching and the glamour of space flight, but nonetheless it would seem to be one of the more worthwhile of human activities.” [Life on a Little Known Planet]
This week a new paper came out that highlights the importance of roaches to an animal we have kinder feelings about:
The red cockaded Woodpecker
Unusual macrocyclic lactone sex pheromone of Parcoblatta lata, a primary food source of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Eliyahu et. al PNAS Dec. 19 2011
The red-cockaded woodpecker is an adorable little bird that lives in old pine forests. Historically their range covered much of the eastern US, but these days they are down to remnant populations in the southern US, and they’ve been listed as an endangered species since 1970.
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