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10054.  Fri Nov 05, 2004 8:21 am Reply with quote

I thought cockroaches might give the opportunity for photos with that ewwwww factor...

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are QI insects. They are large and wingless and come from - erm - Madagascar, where it is thought to live on the forest floor in rotten logs and feeds on fallen fruit.

It is unusual in its ability to produce sound and also because the females are ovoviparous - that is, they give birth to live young, as many as 30-60 at a time. They life from 2-5 years. The sexes are distinguished by large horns behind the head, hairy antennae and aggressiveness (male) and small bumps, smooth antennae and non-aggressiveness (female). So, quite like humans really.

Males hiss when they fight - they use the hiss to assess the opponent's size. They also hiss during courtship and when handled or disturbed, but hissing on being disturbed is the only type of hiss produced by females and nymphs (immature cockroaches).

The Madagascar hissing cockroach's way of producing its hisses is unique to the species. It forcibly expels air through a pair of modified abdominal spiracles. Spiracles are breathing pores, part of the respiratory system of insects, so this method of sound production is more like respiratory sound made by vertebrates. Most other insects produce sound by rubbing body parts (e.g. crickets) or vibrating a membrane (e.g. cicadas).

Like most cockroaches, the hissing cockroach is most active at night. Adults may measure up to four-inches long and one-inch wide, and weigh up to almost one ounce. They are a dark chocolate brown with dark orange markings on their abdomens.

10055.  Fri Nov 05, 2004 8:24 am Reply with quote

There are more than 4,000 different cockroach species worldwide. In some species, individuals may weigh almost two ounces. Cockroaches have existed for nearly 250 million years, withstanding everything that Mother Nature and galactic forces could throw their way. They’re even very resistant to radiation! Cockroaches are omnivores, eating almost anything organic. They’ll even eat the glue off the back of postage stamps, the bindings off the backs of books, paper, cloth, leather, and even electrical wire insulation. The good news is that as scavengers, cockroaches clean our environment and help recycle organic litter. They also serve as food for a variety of small mammals, birds, spiders, amphibians, and reptiles. The bad news is that they have been associated with the development and spread of certain diseases.

Engineers are using the cockroach as a model to design robotic all-terrain vehicles.

10056.  Fri Nov 05, 2004 8:33 am Reply with quote

Here's something that might be a 'general ignorance' question.

Most people think that if there's a nuclear war, cockroaches will be the only survivors. The band Papa Roach apparently picked their name because of this (assumed) quality, according to an interview with founder member Coby Dick.

However, this concept doesn't seem to have been the result of empirical testing. In fact, an article written by May Berenbaum, professor and head of the Department of Entomology, University of Illinois; published in American Entomologist 47(3) concludes:

"[They] conclusively demonstrated that the American cockroach was, compared with the rest of the known irradiated insect world, a wimp; P. americana died at doses of 20,000 rads. In comparison, it was noted that D. melanogaster [fruit fly] had a LD100 of 64,000 rads and the parasitoid wasp Habrobracon an LD100 of 180,000 rads."

"D. radiodurans (as the specific epithet suggests) is withoug doubt the most radiation-resistant organism known on the planet. A pinkish bacterium that smells vaguely of rotten cabbage, it was isolated originally from canned meat that had spoiled despite being irradiated (it has turned up in irradiated fish and duck meat, as well as in the dung of elephants and Ilamas and in granite from Antartica) (Travis 1998). It grows happily in radioactive waste sites in the presence of levels as high as 1.5 million rads (keep in mind that's over 1,000 times the 1,000 rads that kill humans and sterilizes American cockroaches). In a frozen state it may even be able to withstand 3 million rads."

WHOA! That is interesting.. I wonder how much research is currently being done on this bacterium, how in the world is it able to protect itself from such radiation?? Does it produce molecules that fish away the dangerous radiation - prevention of damage - or does it have very comprehensive mechanisms to repair the damage? This might give good insight for the development of sunscreen products of cancer therapy..

10057.  Fri Nov 05, 2004 8:39 am Reply with quote

According to another website, cockroaches can live for up to a week without their heads. After a week they will die because without their heads they can't drink water.

I rather like that as a QI thng about them, but I think I want to see it confirmed somewhere else.

10060.  Fri Nov 05, 2004 10:42 am Reply with quote

Yes, I think the nuclear war myth is sufficiently well-known to make a good question. It was the subject of a Fortean Times Mythchaser column a little while ago.

10172.  Sat Nov 06, 2004 12:02 pm Reply with quote

I suggested it for a question in the last series, in the hope it would go under B for Bombs. But when I presented it to the meeting, I was brutally beaten with an intellectual stick, though I can't quite recall why.

I also said that not only would a cockroach not survive, but the only thing that would survive would be a Bacteria named: Conan the Bacterium. (B for Bacteria)

I think it would be a great question for General Ignorance, I will dig up all of my old research on it.

10183.  Sat Nov 06, 2004 6:02 pm Reply with quote

It was your accent, we couldn't understand what you were talking about. It just seemed politer to pretend the scripts had already been written.

10612.  Sat Nov 13, 2004 2:26 pm Reply with quote

Should the Cockroach atomic bomb question arise, this might be a little interesting nugget for Backround Information

It concerns Animals and the effect a bomb will have on them.

In 1946, right near Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific around 4000 animals were placed onto a boat and left to drift by the island. Scientists and the military wanted to see how the bomb would effect the animals. (On board were many different animals, a lot of which were goats, others were chickens, sheep..etc..) This boat load and experiment became to be known as The Atomic Ark and the scientist did get an answer to, "What would be the affects?"; It killed them all.

Another report suggests that some survived but were so burnt they had to be put down.

10614.  Sat Nov 13, 2004 2:49 pm Reply with quote

I handle the Madagascan cockroach variety weekly at Bristol Zoo, where I apply them to small girls (in the approved manner). The sound of their hiss has evolved to have almost exactly the same sound spectrum as a snake hiss. This wards off birds, which are extremely frightened by snake hisses, and will fly into the air at the least sign of a snake.

They also perform 'strategic sunbathing', which many large insects and miriapods do to have their parasites zapped by the sun's ultraviolet radiation. Those parasites that are immune are often chomped up by small mites which live on the cockroach. They live in symbiosis, cleaning its exoskeletal skin (a very think layer over the chitinous exoskeleton) in return for food, from the parasites or from the host's mouthparts.

"So, the naturalists observe, the flea,
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite 'em;
And so proceed, ad infinitum"
-Jonathan Swift


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