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Friday, Nov. 23, 2001

ANIMAL TRACKER

Forest cockroach


* Japanese name: Morichabane gokiburi
* Scientific name: Blattella nipponica
* Description: These sleek insects are 11-14 mm long, with two pairs of wings. Adults are brown, although when they change from a nymph into an adult, the body is white, as in the photo. During the transformation, the wings are pumped full of blood and the shell hardens and turns brown after about four hours. The forewings harden as well and overlap in the middle of the body, protecting the membranous hindwings underneath. Forest cockroaches are good fliers. They have long, whiplike antennae, biting mouthparts and two sensory prongs called cerci at the end of the abdomen.
* Where to find them: Tokyo is the northern limit of this species, which lives in forests and gardens. Unlike their more familiar relatives, forest cockroaches don't come into houses. They can be found in dark places -- in leaf litter and under stones. They are active at night.
* Food: Anything. Forest cockroaches, like the ones in your house, eat anything. They are the recyclers of the forest and their guts are likely to contain all the diseases and bacteria of the forest. Like all insects, cockroaches groom themselves regularly in order to maintain fully functional sensory systems. They are clean on the outside but have a distinctive cockroach smell, that of their own salivary gland secretions -- and the consumed feces of other animals.
* Special features: Cockroaches are among the most successful animals in the history of life and live in almost every terrestrial environment. Females carry their fertilized eggs until just before they hatch, so boosting the number of young that survive. They breathe through holes in the side of the body called spiracles, so they can survive for a short time even if they lose their heads.



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