Friday, 24 May 2013

In the News: Cockroach Double Whammy

New to nature special: the top 10 new species

 Glow-in-the-dark cockroach (Lucihormetica luckae), Ecuador

Luminescence among terrestrial animals is rather rare and best known among several groups of beetles — fireflies and certain click beetles in particular — as well as cave-inhabiting fungus gnats. Since the first discovery of a luminescent cockroach in 1999, more than a dozen species have 'come to light'. All are rare, and interestingly, so far found only in remote areas far from light pollution. The latest addition to this growing list is L. luckae that may be endangered or possibly already extinct. This cockroach is known from a single specimen collected 70 years ago from an area heavily impacted by the eruption of the Tungurahua volcano. The species may be most remarkable because the size and placement of its lamps suggest that it is using light to mimic toxic luminescent click beetles

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Cockroaches lose their 'sweet tooth' to evade traps
A strain of cockroaches in Europe has evolved to outsmart the sugar traps used to eradicate them. American scientists found that the mutant cockroaches had a "reorganised" sense of taste, making them perceive the glucose used to coat poisoned bait not as sweet but rather as bitter. 
A North Carolina State University team tested the theory by giving cockroaches a choice of jam or peanut butter. 
They then analysed the insects' taste receptors, similar to our taste buds.
Researchers from the same team first noticed 20 years ago that some pest controllers were failing to eradicate cockroaches from properties, because the insects were simply refusing to eat the bait. 
Dr Coby Schal explained in the journal Science that this new study had revealed the "neural mechanism" behind this refusal.  
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