The Amazing Cockroach
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skinI remember moving to Austin Texas in the early nineteen-eighties. I got a job at UT Austin, so the first task was to find an apartment within biking distance of the university. I remember you and your wife settled on a garage apartment and moved in unaware that you would be sharing the space with hundreds of new friends, you guessed it, the American cockroach. These are the big ones that fly!

Even though we managed to kill most of them, these insects are hardy and a recent sequencing of their complete genome reveals how they’ve survived at least three hundred million years. The American cockroach actually came from Africa in the sixteen hundreds. Chinese scientists sequenced their huge genome at three point three eight billion bases which makes that the second largest insect genome and larger than the human genome. While its genome is closely related to the German and Australian cockroaches, it’s actually closer to two species of termites.

They possess a large number of genes that allow these omnivores to smell and taste a great variety of potential food sources. Their genes also allow them to detoxify substances which allows them to survive chemicals we direct at them. If you recall, cockroaches survived the Hiroshima nuclear bomb.

They can also regulate their growth, so that when food is plentiful, they grow faster but when food is scarce, their genes slow down their growth. They can even regrow limbs and other body parts. This remarkable ability is called developmental plasticity

Imagine the day when humans can regrow limbs! Maybe we will using what we learn from the genes of these creepy crawlies. Could we love on them one day? Nah

For more information…

The genomic and functional landscapes of developmental plasticity in the American cockroach
Many cockroach species have adapted to urban environments, and some have been serious pests of public health in the tropics and subtropics. Here, we present the 3.38-Gb genome and a consensus gene set of the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana. We report insights from both genomic and functional investigations into the underlying basis of its adaptation to urban environments and developmental plasticity...

Newly Sequenced Cockroach Genome Explains Why They Are So Goddamn Hard to Kill
Cockroaches have been one of humanity’s most unwanted, yet admirably persistent, roommates for thousands of years. But despite our reluctant intimacy, there’s still a lot we don’t understand about these insects. A recent study published in Nature Communication, unpacks the genes that make roaches tick—and helps explain why they’re so damn hard to get rid of....

In a Cockroach Genome, ‘Little Mighty’ Secrets
The American cockroach is the largest common house cockroach, about the length of a AA battery. Also called the water bug, it can live for a week without its head. It eats just about anything, including feces, the glue on book bindings, and other cockroaches, dead or alive. It can fly short distances and run as fast as the human equivalent of 210 miles per hour, relative to its size...