What Do Cockroaches Have in Common With Derek Zoolander?

By Eliza Strickland | December 13, 2010 5:29 pm

cockroachJust like the lengendary male model who fought to valiantly to become an ambi-turner, cockroaches prefer not to turn left.

Researchers say it’s a safe bet that the roaches don’t have Zoolander’s mental block. Instead, they believe that the right-turn bias shown by the creepy-crawly insects indicates that most roaches favor their right side, just as most humans are right-handed.

For the study, published in the Journal of Insect Behavior, researchers released the roaches into a Y-shaped tube, enticing them forward to the fork in the road with odors of vanilla and ethanol. ScienceNOW explains what happened next:

Cockroaches with intact antennae preferred the tube’s right fork 57% of the time. This right-side bias persisted even after the scientists chopped off one of the bugs’ sensitive antennae, used to sense touch and smells.

This finding adds to the evidence that many animals show a side-preference akin to human handedness; for example, one study showed horses to be predominantly right-hoofed.

Meanwhile, maybe homeowners battling roach infestations can exploit our new understanding of these right-legged cockroaches, and strategically place roach traps to the right of suspicious cracks and holes.

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Discoblog: Lefties Cry Discrimination Over iPhone’s Faulty Antenna

Image: Texas A&M University / Hong Liang

  • Wil

    The photo reminds me of “Eraserhead”, or that other cult movie where the main character is an exterminator who sniffs insecticide to get hallucinogenic highs, and things get extremely weird and nightmarishly surreal.

    What was the name of that movie?

  • Matt B.

    Wil, I’m guessing “Naked Lunch” or “Joe’s Apartment”.

    Also, I figure this could be used in some “Attack of the Killer Roaches” movie. Make enough left turns to get away from the killer roaches and you might gets their numbers to dwindle to the point where you have enough ammo to take them out. Of course, I’m sure the movie would get the science wrong and have 100% of the roaches turn right.

  • Steven Pinker’s Awesome Hair

    Wil – it was Naked Lunch, which is separated from Joe’s Apartment by a vast (and rather amusing) chasm.

  • http://milbetweenus.blogspot.com/ Sidney

    Great comment, Steven.

    This reminds me of my hoarding, hoarding mother-in-law’s house.


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