Home | Field studies and notes | New Cockroach, Discovered at a Tourist Resort, Jumps Like a Grasshopper

New Cockroach, Discovered at a Tourist Resort, Jumps Like a Grasshopper

Bush CockroachHello, Frank Indiviglio here. Roaches are best known to herp enthusiasts as food for captive reptiles and amphibians.  However, these very interesting insects are increasingly being valued as display animals in their own right, and are appearing in the pet trade (I find the lime-green Banana Roach, Panchlora nivea, to be among the most beautiful of all insects…please see photo and article below for information on keeping roaches).  Recently, entomologists were surprised to discover a new species on the grounds of a famous South African resort. Christened the Leaproach, Saltoblattela monistabularis, it is the only one of its nearly 5,000 relatives known to jump, and on first glance looks much like a grasshopper.

A New Species at a Tourist Attraction

The Leaproach was first collected on the grounds of South Africa’s Table Mountain National Park, a mere 10 minute drive from Cape Town (please see photo).  The park is visited by over 4 million people each year. 

Biologists studying flies found it while sweeping through tall grass with nets.  The slender beast, which measures 1/3 of an inch in length, sports large, powerful rear legs and bulging eyes (please see photos in article linked below).  Interestingly, the long antennae are used to help stabilize the insect while airborne during leaps.  Entomologists describe it as “quite athletic”. 

Roach Diversity

Roaches first appeared over 300 million years ago, and since then have evolved to fill an incredible variety of ecological niches.  There are semi-aquatic and wood-eating roaches, and some are the main scavengers in caves and ant colonies.  The largest, Latin America’s Megaloblatta baberoides, sports a 7 inch wingspan while the heaviest, Macropameothia rhinoceros of Australia, weighs in at 1.5 ounces (more than a House Mouse).  The newly discovered Leaproach is adapted to grasslands, and seems to be the ecological equivalent of small grasshoppers – yet another roach “first”. 

Misunderstood Insects

Green leaf CockroachAlthough widely despised, only 12 roach species (a mere 0.3% of the total) are household pests.  The rest live outdoors, where they are vitally important as pollinators, decomposers, predators and prey.  In some habitats, roaches form 60-85% of the invertebrate biomass – a clear indication of their ecological value.

Roaches are also important laboratory animals.  Studies of several species have led to advances in human molecular and cell biology, neuron function, heredity, pharmacology, epidemiology and hormone activity.  Even the pesky German (“House”) Cockroach has contributed to our welfare.  Studies of it have shed light on invertebrate evolution, neurobiology, taxonomy, conservation and pest control strategies…and Bedbugs are a favorite food!

Madagascar Hissing Roaches, widely kept in classrooms, have introduced millions of students to insect behavior, and also served as a model for a robot which was used to study human mobility. 

Please check out my posts on Twitter  and Facebook .  Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

Please also post your questions and comments here…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. 

 

Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio

 

Further Reading

Leaproach Photos and Information

Keeping Orange-Spotted Roaches

Table Mountain National Park

Bush Cockroach image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Cyron Ray Macey
Green leaf Cockroach image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Ltshears

2 comments

  1. avatar

    And they make great feeders too. Most all of my reptiles and amphibians love them. They have a much higher protein level than the ever popular cricket. And many are considered ‘soft bodied’.

    Great story, Frank

  2. avatar

    Thanks, Scott.

    I prefer roaches over crickets as a staple for many species as well. I especially like these.

    Best, Frank

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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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