Ecology, Behavior, and Natural History
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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Let the lowly cockroach crawl up, or, better, fly up, to its rightful place in human esteem! Most of us, even the entomologists in whose ranks I belong, have a stereotype of revolting little creatures that scatter from leftover food when you turn on the kitchen light and instantly disappear into inaccessible crevices. These particular cockroaches are a problem, and the only solution is blatticide, with spray, poison, or trap....
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Most available literature on cockroaches deals with domestic pests and the half dozen or so other species that are easily and commonly kept in laboratories and museums. It reflects the extensive efforts undertaken to find chinks in the armor of problematic cockroaches, and the fact that certain species are ideal for physiological and behavioral investigations under controlled conditions. These studies have been summarized in some...
ONE: Shape, Color, and Size
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The image that floats to consciousness at mention of the word cockroach is one based on experience. For most people, it is the insect encountered in the sink during a midnight foray into the kitchen, or the one that is pinned splay legged on a wax tray in entomology class. While these domestic pests and lab “rats” do possess a certain subtle beauty, they are rather pedestrian in appearance when compared to the exuberance of design and...
TWO: Locomotion: Ground, Water, and Air
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Cockroaches were once placed in the suborder Cursoria (Blatchley, 1920) (Lat., runner) because the familiar ones, the domestic pests, are notorious for their ground speed on both horizontal and vertical surfaces. Indeed, the rapid footwork of these species has made cockroach racing a popular sport in a number of institutions of higher learning. Like most animal taxa, however, cockroaches exhibit a range of locomotor abilities,...
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Cockroaches are found in nearly all habitats: tropical and temperate forests, grasslands, heath, steppe, salt marshes, coastal communities, and deserts. They are active in the entire vertical dimension of the terrestrial environment, from the upper forest canopy to deep in the soil, and inhabit caves, mines, hollow trees, burrows, and sub-bark spaces. They are also found in dead leaves, rotting logs, streams and stream edges, epiphytes, arboreal...
FOUR: Diets and Foraging
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Cockroaches are typically described as omnivores, scavengers, or “classic generalists” (Dow, 1986), insects that feed on most anything they encounter. Indeed, the success of pest cockroaches in human habitations may be based largely on their ability to feed on soap, glue,wire insulation, and other materials that they certainly did not encounter during their evolution and do not encounter while living in more natural habitats....
FIVE: Microbes: The Unseen Influence
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Why are cockroaches almost universally loathed? One of the primary reasons is because of the habitats they frequent in the human environment. Cockroaches are associated with sewers, cesspools, latrines, septic tanks, garbage cans, chicken houses, animal cages, and anywhere else there are biological waste products. Their attraction to human and animal feces, rotting food, secretions from corpses, sputum, pus, and the like gives them a well...
SIX: Mating Strategies
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The genitalia of male cockroaches are frequently used as an example of the extreme complexity that may evolve in insect reproductive structures (e.g., Gwynne, 1998). They have been likened to Swiss army knives in that a series of often-hinged hooks, tongs, spikes, and other lethal-looking paraphernalia are sequentially unfolded during copulation. Marvelous though all that hardware may be, it has not yet inspired research on its functional...
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Perhaps no aspect of cockroach biology has been studied as extensively as the range of mechanisms by which they replenish the earth. Understandably so, given that their variation in this arena is a rich source of comparative material and that reproduction in many species is amenable to laboratory study. Several reviews of cockroach reproduction are...
EIGHT: Social Behavior
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It is difficult to conceive of any group of animals that are as universally and diversely social as cockroaches. Given the range of habitats they have mastered and their versatility in reproductive mode and feeding habits, it is unsurprising that they exhibit extraordinary variation in their social organization. Individual taxa are typically described as solitary, gregarious, or subsocial. We structure this chapter around those categories, treating...
NINE: Termites as Social Cockroaches
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It has long been known that termites (Isoptera), cockroaches (Blattaria), and mantids (Mantodea) are closely related (Wheeler, 1904;Walker, 1922; Marks and Lawson, 1962); they are commonly grouped as suborders of the order Dictyoptera (Kristensen, 1991). Although there is a general agreement on the monophyly of the order, during the past two decades the sister group relationships of these three taxa and the position of...
TEN: Ecological Impact
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As a whole, cockroaches are considered garbage collectors in terrestrial ecosystems. They recycle dead plants, dead animals, and excrement, processes that are critical to a balanced environment. Here we describe some mechanisms by which cockroaches contribute to ecosystem functioning via the breakdown of organic matter and the release of nutrients. We also summarize their ecological impact on numerous floral, faunal, and microbial...
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Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 92 halftones, 71 line drawings
Publication Year: 2007