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article imageThe magic touch speeds up cockroach birth

By Tim Sandle     Apr 4, 2014 in Science
Female cockroaches that get "touched" - by other female cockroaches - reproduce faster than female roaches that live in isolation or without tactile stimulation.
Researchers have found that the tactile activity of touching is very important. Whilst the research showed that pairing two cockroaches together -- even roaches of different species -- speeds up reproduction the most, other forms of touching also help. The researchers also found that the shape of the artificial antenna doing the 'touching' and the speed and duration of the stimulation were key factors that influenced reproduction speed
The new study also examined study examined whether artificial antennae -- in this case, duck feathers -- can mimic a cockroach antenna's capacity to hasten reproduction in cockroach females. The use of feathers also worked, although not to the degree that other antennae did. For this part of the study, the researchers developed a motorized chamber that rotated a duck feather inside a Petri dish to act as a surrogate roach antenna. The researchers changed both the speed of the rotating feather and the duration of stimulation. Short bursts of stimulation with slow motor speeds led to faster reproduction, while longer stimulation bouts with a fast-moving feather slowed reproduction.
The reason why touching is effective is because it is good at stimulating juvenile hormone production in adult female cockroaches, and this accelerates growth of their eggs.
The study was carried out at North Carolina State University. The research has been reported to the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, in a paper titled “Social facilitation of insect reproduction with motor-driven tactile stimuli”.
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