Last week some of our Giant Burrowing Cockroaches gave birth so we are proud parents here at Queensland Museum.
Giant Burrowing Cockroaches are insects classified in the Phylum Arthropoda, Order Blattodea. They are native to Australia and found mostly in tropical Queensland. As their name suggests, these insects burrow down into the soil, often to a depth of 1 metre, where they establish their home.
Inquiry Centre Support Officer, Anita Hughes is handling some of the adults in the image below and she has been ‘over the moon’ about our new acquisitions!
Males and females can be differentiated by the “scoop” on the head. Males have this scoop but females don’t. Unlike other cockroaches, Giant Burrowing Cockroaches are wingless and ovoviviparous. This means that embryos develop inside eggs that are retained within the mother’s body until they are ready to hatch.
In addition to the birth of these ‘babies’, one of the adults has just moulted. Many Arthropods, such as these cockroaches, shed their outer covering from time to time and this allows them to grow. Burrowing cockroaches shed their exoskeleton 12 to 13 times before reaching adult size. This covering is made up of chitin, a polysaccharide which functions a little bit like the protein keratin.
Exoskeletons assist with protection from pests and predators, support, feeding and reducing the amount of moisture lost by terrestrial organisms.
When the cockroach moults it appears pure white except for its eyes. By the next day, it has developed the normal brown colour of the species.
Once the adult sheds its exoskeleton, it begins to consume the old ‘skin’. The exoskeleton is an important food source so newly moulted cockroaches and babies feed on this.
Cockroaches such as these perform an important role in consuming leaf litter, eucalypts in particular, and recycling the organic matter back into the ecosystem.
To learn more about these amazing animals, visit the Giant Burrowing Cockroaches section of our QM website.