Cockroach…the mere mention of the word can conjure up some fairly disturbing accounts of heavily infested apartments with deplorable living conditions. But however disgusting you think cockroaches might be, there are some useful things we can learn from them.
Have you ever wondered how a cockroach can feast on the remains of a week old takeaway and not get sick? Scientists are fascinated by this too. Recent research has shown that the American cockroach brain contains antibiotic elements which could help fight off deadly bacterial infections such as MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and toxic strains of E. coli.
By studying the way cockroaches move, scientists have shown that they have one of the most stable ways of walking, called a tripod gait, and can get around very quickly, on all kinds of terrain, and do so while using very little energy. From this research, robots are being developed that may carry tiny cameras over landmine-littered terrain or into conflict zones without being easily detected.
Finally, the flexibility of the cockroach leg is inspiring the development of stronger, more flexible artificial legs to allow an amputee greater mobility to safely maneuver over a variety of surfaces. Studies on the cockroach antennae and sensory perception are helping to develop tiny robots with enhanced ability to move safely through dark and dangerous locations, such as smoke-filled rooms with debris strewn about.
Large roaches like the Madeira cockroach have very large nerves that are routinely used in neurological work and have led to fundamental discoveries in how nerves work.
There’s a lot which can be learned from cockroaches…