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Cockroach – The Toughest Creature On The Earth

Why Cockroaches Survive

This post is also available in: हिन्दी (Hindi) العربية (Arabic)

If someone tried to construct an insect or bug that would flip all our built-in disgust switches, they’d come up with the cockroach. Because no other household pest provokes such fervent anxiety, disgust, and downright terror. Did you know that cockroaches are one of the toughest and longest surviving creatures on the Earth. 

With ancestors tracing back more than 280 million years (time when dinosaurs were alive), cockroaches have been around for an incomprehensibly long time, and they’re here to stay. 

Why Cockroaches Survive

There are well over 4,000 different types of cockroaches—that we know about. Some estimates suggest we’ve discovered only about half the total number of species. Though most live in the wild, at least a few tenacious species have become uncomfortably common, extremely unwelcome guests in our houses and apartments.

Why Cockroaches Survive

The success of the cockroach has been attributed to a variety of innate characteristics including:

1. Adaptability

It is an incredibly adaptive insect, having adjusted to the changes of the Earth and its inhabitants for these hundreds of millions of years. Most recently, not only adjusting to life with humans, but also using our homes, businesses, and food as their own.

2. Diet

Cockroaches will eat just about anything. They prefer food sources such as starches, sweets, grease, and meat products, but they will also eat cheese, beer, leather, glue, hair, starch in book bindings, flakes of dried skin or decaying organic matter (plant or animal)—and even wallpapers and stamps, primarily because of the glues on them.

3. Size

Since cockroaches are small—especially the German cockroaches—they can hide and make their homes in the tiniest of cracks or squeeze through these to build a vast population behind a wall. They may be found under refrigerators, stoves, false bottoms in kitchen cabinets, in the backs of cabinets and crevices between baseboards and floors or cabinets, and in walls. They may also be found behind pictures or within electronic equipment.

4. Nocturnal

Cockroaches spend the daylight hours in these dark, secluded sites then venture out at night in search of food and water. Thus, populations can build to large numbers before they are sighted.

After the disaster bombs namely “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the ubiquitous cockroaches were seen on the site of rubble and destruction. Extensive research has proved that roaches have a remarkable ability to endure radiation. While radiation of 1000 radon units (rad), which was emitted in Hiroshima, Nagasaki explosions is fatal for humans when exposed for 10 minutes, 50 percent of the roaches exposed to this level remain alive and kicking and even at 10000 rad about 30 percent would be healthy. This is seemingly the tolerance limit as when exposed to a higher level of radiation, their survival rate was marginal.

5. Reproduction

Cockroaches produce their eggs in capsules which they then carry or carefully place. Each capsule can contain up to 40 eggs and one cockroach can produce up to 300 offspring in one year, depending on the species. The hatched eggs then have a relatively short time to maturity and their own ability to reproduce and carry on the population.

6. Regenerating Power

While they cannot regenerate their heads, they are blessed with impressive regenerating powers capable of re-growing lost limbs, antennae and even their eyes.

7. Immune to Injury

Capable of withstanding forces more than 900 times their body weight without sustaining an injury, one cannot crush them easily. These exquisite creatures can live for nearly a week without their heads. Without highly pressurized blood vessels, unlike humans, they do not bleed out. Instead, their neck seals off the opening. With an open circulatory system, they can breathe through spiracles without the head and eventually die of thirst.

8. Variation in Movement

They can run, walk, jump, almost fly and swim while holding their breath for 40 minutes.

Cockroaches are speedy creatures. They can run up to three miles per hour, making them one of the fastest insects on the planet. A human-sized cockroach would be able to run over 160 kilometers per hour and if a horse could run as fast as a cockroach it would be able to cover approximately 450 kilometers per hour.

9. Secluded Habitat

While most cockroaches prefer sites close to moisture, some species, such as the brown-banded cockroach, can live for many days without water. Thus it can often be found in dry areas where others rarely venture.

Conclusion: With remarkable talents, abilities akin to superpowers, they are so smelly, slimy, greasy and gross, that we do not have a superhero “Cockroach Man”, despite cockroaches being an ideal candidate for the same while we do have superhero characters based on much less capable creatures like the spider, cat, ant and bat.

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Image Credit: Flea vector created by brgfx – www.freepik.com

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