‘Cockroaches are essential for environment’

BUSINESS STANDARD

The mere sight of a cockroach sends a shiver down the spine of many, but the most despised insect is actually essential to the survival of the Earth’s delicate ecosystem, an Indian-origin biologists has claimed.

According to Srini Kambhampati, professor and chair of the biology department at the University of Texas at Tyler, the sudden disappearance of Earth’s 5,000 to 10,000 cockroach species would have ramifications far beyond your filthy apartment.

“Most cockroaches feed on decaying organic matter, which traps a lot of nitrogen. Cockroach feeding has the effect of releasing that nitrogen (in their feces) which then gets into the soil and is used by plants, Prof Kambhampati told Life’s Little Mysteries.

“In other words, extinction of cockroaches would have a big impact on forest health and therefore indirectly on all the species that live there,” he said.

Prof Kambhampati, who is a graduate from Andhra Pradesh Agricultural University, also warned that the Earth’s 5,000 to 10,000 cockroach species are also an important source of food for many birds and small mammals like mice and rats.

In turn, these predators are themselves prey to many other species like cats, coyotes, wolves and reptiles, as well as eagles and other birds of prey.

None of these animals rely solely on cockroaches for food, Kambhampati said, so they probably wouldn’t go extinct, but their numbers would drop. Parasitic wasps, which specialise in parasitising cockroach eggs, do rely entirely on the cockroach.

“These would almost certainly become extinct,” he noted.

“Extinction of cockroaches would have a big impact on forest health and therefore indirectly on all the species that live there,” he said.

Furthermore, the disappearance of cockroaches would mess with something truly vital for us all, called the nitrogen cycle, he added.

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