What has two antennae and receives radio signals? A cockroach, of course.
Researchers from the iBionicS lab at North Carolina State University have created a remote-control system to stimulate and steer cockroaches, they reported at the 34th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society last month. In this system, described in their paper for the conference, they equip a Madagascar hissing cockroach with an electrical circuit board with wires connecting to the tips of the cockroach’s antennae. They can then use a a joystick to send radio signals to the antennae in order to make the roach feel as though it has run into something and needs to turn away. A zap to the right antenna and the roach turns left; a zap to the left and it turns right.
Under normal light, this roach looks normal enough. But under a fluorescent light, its three spots—two large ones and one very tiny one just visible under the right spot—light up like a Christmas tree.
This remarkable species of South American cockroach, Lucihormetica luckae, owes its fluorescence to bacteria. The spots on the dark brown area of its carapace are pits inhabited by microbes that glow under fluorescent light.
Cockroaches take advantage of our messy hospitality, skulking around in the cracks and holes of our houses and devouring the scraps we leave behind. Soon, though, maybe we’ll be the ones taking advantage of their fondness for filth.
The brains of these insects carry some serious antibiotics—strong enough to slaughter bacteria that have evolved resistance to the hospital antibiotics we use. The researchers presented their work at the Society for General Microbiology meeting this week in England, and say that while the finding is terrific, it’s no surprise given the roaches’ living circumstances:
“Some of these insects live in the filthiest places ever known to man,” says Naveed Khan, coauthor of the new study. “These insects crawl on dead tissue, in sewage, in drainage areas. We thought, ‘How do they cope with all the bacteria and parasites?’” [Science News]