A look inside the vast world of roaches

Did you know that the pesky cockroaches we sometimes find in kitchens, sewers and basements make up less than 1 percent of all cockroach species? Researchers estimate there are as many as 20,000 roach species on the planet and less than 5,000 have been cataloged. Up next, our partner Science Friday goes into the lab with roach researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

TRANSCRIPT

Did you know that the pesky cockroaches we sometimes find in kitchens, sewers, and basement make up less than 1% of all cockroach species Researchers estimate there are as many as 20,00 roach species on the planet.

And less than 5,00 have been cataloged.

Up next, our partner Science Friday goes into the lab with roach researchers at Rutgers Universit in New Jersey.

It started on just anothe spring day on the job for a New York City exterminator

[ Distorted voice ] And h noticed that there were large cockroaches inside the bait station.

And when he showed them to me, I knew that there were characteristics ther that were somethin that I had not seen in this part of the country i the 30-some-odd year that I've been working in the pest-control industry

The puzzling cockroac was examined by expert from Florida t Washington, D.C.

before ending up at the Ware Lab at Rutgers University wher researchers capture cockroache for a different reason

In my studies in South America where I collect specimens, and I'm trying to figure out how we characteriz the biodiversity by defining species.

I had the job of tryin to identify the species.

I do work with cockroaches on an everyday basis But even for me, identifying cockroache is very difficult.

So that's why we had to employ the tool of using genetic identification.

Through a process called DN barcoding, Evangelista identified the genetic informatio of the mysteriou roach's mitochondria and produced a DNA sequenc that could be compared wit other known cockroach species.

We did that We saw the two unknown specimen fel on the same branch of the tree as the Japanese cockroach.

We saw the sequences were identical This is a species that's not known to be invasive in the U.S.

It has an interestin characteristic that it is cold-tolerant which is unique amon the pest cockroaches we see in New York City.

Many of these invasiv species become successfu because they know somethin or they can do something which other species cannot do.

They have traits which are novel to the system.

And therefore, they become successful and invasive.

But the arrival of a new cold-tolerant cockroach isn't novel.

The invasion has bee going on for centuries New York City's famous roaches originated elsewhere There's the oriental cockroach actually thought to be from Africa, which likes wet and damp areas the American cockroach also of African descent, which is partial to sewer line and floor drains the German cockroach a Southeast Asian export which you may find in your kitchen, the brown-banded cockroach native to Africa which likes drier part of your home, like your bedroom, and the Surinam cockroac of Southeast Asian origin, which burrow in ornamental plants

When humans cam to new areas they brought these species with them.

But since they always traveled with humans, they might b one of the first species we have brought into North America.

I'm quite sure that Jamestown, for instance had cockroache which stepped from a ship, something they are famous for.

In fact, John Smith one of the founder of Jamestown wrote in 162 that a certain India bug called by the Spaniard 'a Cacarootch, the which creeping into chests they eat and defil with their ill-sented dung.'

But the pest cockroaches we've grown all too familiar with make up just a small percentag of cockroach species

About less than 1 of the cockroaches that exist on the planet are pest species We know about 4,500 species.

But there's probably a lot more than that The only formal estimate that I've seen is about 20,000 There are cockroache with some amazing qualities.

There are other cockroache that glow in the dark.

There are other cockroaches that have bright metallic coloration.

There's a huge variety of awesome behaviors that they display.

Cold toleranc is just another tric in their time-tested arsenal

Well, they've always said that cockroaches will be the last living thing found here.

You know, if you look back in historical record cockroaches have not changed that much in 350 million years So it's pretty muc a perfect living thing They'll be here long after we're gone