Please give… to the National Cockroach Project




If you have American cockroaches- also known as Periplaneta americana, or waterbugs- the National Cockroach Project wants them. Or rather, they want the DNA. If enough people send in samples, the researchers will be able to determine how these common animals spread around our continent. Surprisingly, for such an ubiquitous urban insect, no one has studied how these animals move from city to city.

In spite of its name, the American Roach is actually an African Old World species, and little is known about its American history. The National Cockroach Project has all the marks of a good citizen effort:

  • It focuses on a common, easily identified animal found across the continent.
  • The Rockefeller lab group has a strong record of relevant research.
  • The questions it asks are focused and answerable.
  • The answers will be relevant to both basic research and applied concerns for cockroach control.

To participate, follow the instructions.

4 thoughts on “Please give… to the National Cockroach Project”

  1. Nobody really knows where P. americana originally came from. Most species in the genus are Asian, although there are a few African ones, and this species certainly arrived to the Americas via Europe. What is needed is a robust phylogeny of the entire genus.
    The National Cockroach Study does not aim to, and it cannot, answer this question, but I am afraid that they may be tempted to make claims about cryptic speciation etc. within the American population of the species. COI is notoriously unreliable for orthopteroid and dictyopteoroid insects (numts); the results may give a decent picture of the movement of the species’ populations, but it worries me that they talk about “undiscovered look-alike species.”

    1. Thanks for your comments, Piotr. I’ve come around to not letting perfect be the enemy of the good with regards to barcoding. Of course a proper population genetics study with multiple loci would be a great deal better. But no one is doing that larger project, and this smaller project will at least take care of the most difficult part of these studies: gathering material from diverse locations, which hopefully will be available to those interested in continuing.

      1. More info is always good. But barcoding has a history of serious sampling & analytical flaws. Also we have a poor history of maintaining anything that needs maintaining like genetic voucher specimens for long periods or even short periods.

        There is no “easy” button in science and “simple” is the enemy of scientific rigor. At any rate, I suspect automated organism full genetic analysis of both nuclear & mDNA will be here soon enough to put paid to dna barcoding. We will still need expert taxonomists to make sense of and provide needed analysis of results and provide proper sampling for what is essentially a numerical based process in time and geography.

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