Cockroaches more ancient than dinosaurs

This video says about itself:

A 3-D model of the Archimylacris eggintoni, which is an ancient ancestor of modern cockroaches, mantises and termites. Model courtesy of Imperial College London and the Natural History Museum.

From Discovery News:

Cockroach Ancestor Predates Dinosaurs

Analysis by Jennifer Viegas | Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:12 AM ET

If it seems like cockroaches have been around forever, they nearly have. Check out this 300-million-year-old cockroach ancestor that lived several million years before the world’s first dinosaurs emerged.

A new 3-D virtual model of the insect is described in the journal Biology Letters.

Imperial College London scientists created the model, which you’ll view shortly, to show all of the details on Archimylacris eggintoni, which is an ancient ancestor of modern cockroaches, mantises and termites. This insect scuttled around early forests during the Carboniferous period 359 – 299 million years ago, which was a time when life had recently emerged from the oceans to live on land.

This cockroach ancestor was about 3.5 inches long and 1.6 inches wide, so it was a pretty sizable bug even then.

Project leader Russell Garwood, a PhD student from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, said, “The Carboniferous period is sometimes referred to as the age of the cockroach because fossils of Archimylacris eggintoni and its relatives are amongst the most common insects from this time period. They are found all over the world. People joke about it being impossible to kill cockroaches and our 3D model almost brings this one back to life. Thanks to our 3D modeling process, we can see how Archimylacris eggintoni’s limbs were well adapted for all terrains, as it was not only adept in the air but also very agile on the ground.”

The model additionally reveals that the cockroach ancestor had sticky structures on its legs called euplantulae. The researchers believe the euplantulae enabled Archimylacris eggintoni to stick to smooth surfaces such as leaves as they climbed across them, which may have helped them to lay their eggs above the ground in safer locations away from predators.

It also had claws at the base of its legs, which helped it to climb rough surfaces, like trees, so that it could perch above the forest floor for safety or find alternate sources of food higher up.

Check out the mouth area in the model too. These insects, like today’s cockroaches, can grind up their food. While today such food might be some goody found in your pantry, these prehistoric insects mostly munched on decaying leaf and insect matter.

Garwood said, “We now think this ancient ancestor of the cockroach spent most of the day on the forest floor, living in and eating lots of rotting plant and insect matter, which was probably the bug equivalent of heaven. We think it could have used its speed to evade predators and its climbing abilities to scale trees and lay eggs on leaves, much in the same way that modern forest cockroaches do today.”

In future, 3-D models are planned for early spider-like organisms and other species from the Carboniferous period.

Paleocene origin of the cockroach families Blaberidae and Corydiidae: Evidence from Amur River region of Russia: here.

Can termites predict climate change? Here.

Not Only Soldiers Have Weapons: Evolution of the Frontal Gland in Imagoes of the Termite Families Rhinotermitidae and Serritermitidae: here.

ScienceDaily (Nov. 23, 2010) — For millions of years, insects and plants have coevolved — leaf-eaters adapting to the modifications of their hosts and plants changing to protect themselves from herbivory. The abundance and diversity of both insects and plants have varied depending on changes in climate. However, according to a study published in the November issue of Ecological Monographs, a journal of the Ecological Society of America, abnormally high global temperatures have historically lead to a greater diversity and abundance of insects, separate from plant diversity and adaptations: here.

10 thoughts on “Cockroaches more ancient than dinosaurs

  1. As explained by paleontologists James Sprinkle and Jeri Rodgers in the Journal of Paleontology, between about 300-315 million years ago what is now Brown County in north-central Texas was covered by a shallow bay or tidal channel. Bivalve shells, bits of trilobite, shark teeth, crinoids, and other such fossils have been found here, including a large number of brachiopods. Though they might superficially look like just another kind of mollusc, brachiopods belonged to an entirely different phylum, one that flourished during the past but has been reduced to just a handful of species today. You can tell them apart from mollusc shells because brachiopods had upper and lower shells which were hinged at the back (giving some the appearance of an oil-lamp, hence their common name “lamp shells”). Given the abundance of these fossils it is easy to simply collect them and store them away, but a closer look at one specimen in particular documented a years-long struggle between two organisms.

    Encrusted on the lower shell of the brachiopod Composita were two organisms: a colony of tiny marine invertebrates called bryozoans and a single individual of a kind of echinoderm called an edrioasteroid, with the bryozoans creating an almost complete ring around the starfish-like echinoderm. Both were trying to eek out a living on the brachiopod shell, and neither was giving up a millimeter of space.


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