Cockroaches Evolving To Escape Traps: No Sweets

With surviving capabilities and tricks that made them last for more than 350 million years in the in the evolutionary run, cockroaches seem to be adamant to stay there at the first place. A new study shows that some cockroaches have evolved their taste buds to make the sweet insecticide baits taste bitter, thereby making their survival chances rise steeply.

Researchers from North Carolina have published this study in the journal Science, and claim that this kind of adaptation is impressive.

While plenty of other insects do have survival strategies like developing a resistance to pesticides, and the ability to break down poisons without dying, German cockroaches seems to outweigh them all, by strategically evolving a brilliant resistance to baits.

These cockroaches have developed an internal chemistry that enables them to make glucose, which is sweet, taste bitter to themselves.

"This is a fantastic discovery," Walter S. Leal, the head of the entomology department in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of California, Davis, said.

"Sometimes, the science is beautiful but you don't know whether there is going to be an application five years from now, 10 years from now or 100 years," he added.

Ayako Wada-Katsumata, Jules Silverman and Coby Schal, all at North Carolina State University, who penned down the report, explained that some German cockroaches avoid consuming the poison baits laced with glucose, which is actually supposed to be attracting them.

This clever move may be a clear indication of the amazing adaptability of these cockroaches.

To determine and better understand how the cockroaches managed to do this, the researchers from the University of North Carolina investigated further. Close monitoring revealed that instead of taste buds, cockroaches have taste 'hairs' on many parts of their bodies. Concentrating on the hairs around the mouth area and on the two types of nerve cells that sends taste signals to the brain, the researchers found out that one of those nerve cells responds to only sugars and other sweet substances, while the other responds to bitter ones.

That way, when the sweet detector goes 'on,' it would send an impulse to the brain, making the cockroach eat the sweet substances, and similarly, avoid the bitter substance. How the cockroaches managed to change the glucose detection to fire a bitter alarm to the brain is still a mystery, however, the researchers speculate that this may have something to do with a mutation in some particular genes.

The near future may hold some answers, but for now, all we know is that the sweet baits won't work. Time to clean up your homes, people!

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