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article imageStudy: Cockroaches tell each other where to eat

By Paul Wallis     Jun 7, 2010 in Science
Cockroaches may not be cordon bleu experts, but according to a new study they actually pass on recommendations about where to find food. This may reassure homeowners who’ve been thinking that roaches prefer their kitchens.
The roaches also like to hang out together. The study at Queen Mary, University of London indicates that they prefer environments where other roaches are eating, and stay there longer than when eating alone. Apparently it’s not for the ambience. This is collective eating, and it looks like it’s done with a purpose.
The test as reported by Science Daily involved watching behavior by lab roaches which were deliberately kept hungry. They didn’t forage alone. They found some food and ate together. They attracted other roaches to the food source, and they ate together until the food was gone.
The theory is that they have a “foraging pheromone”. That’s not at all out of the ballpark. Cockroaches are distantly related to termites, and roach “colonies” aren’t exactly unknown.
Roaches have been around for 300 million years, and if their lifestyle isn’t quite hitting the cover of Vogue, they’re an extremely successful species. The mass eating may also be similar to herd protection from predators among other animals. Roach predators include mice and other dangerous monsters who can decimate the roach population over time, so being in a crowd may be a very good defence.
One theory advanced by researchers is that this is an insight into the eating habits of other animals, including humans. Let’s hope this doesn’t become a fashion, and guests don’t go and sleep it off under the fridge or hang around on the ceiling until they feel peckish again. Although it would explain the fast food phenomenon, wouldn’t it?
More about Cockroaches, Eating behavior cockroaches, Queen mary london
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