Scientists from the U.K. and Germany have revealed in lab studies that cockroaches can bite with a force 50 times greater than their body weight.
Insects are all around us and play pivotal roles in ecosystems, the researchers write in their paper, appearing this week in PLOS ONE.
The team turned to the American cockroach as a starting point for figuring out insect mouth morphology, since roaches eat practically anything and have relatively primitive mandibles. Ten American cockroaches raised in a lab colony took part in the study. To measure the insects' bite force, the researchers put the cockroaches into what looks like a miniature medieval torture device. Cockroaches were strapped upside down to a metal podium with their heads thrust under a guillotine-like plate. Dental cement further held their tiny faces in place.
Despite the setup, the cockroaches were not so uncomfortable that they refused to bite down on the sensor tip of a device for measuring mandible strength. Two of the roaches clamped down so hard on the sensor that they actually chipped their distal teeth, resulting in their data being disqualified from the study.
From the eight remaining insects, the researchers were able to collect data on 300 different bites. They also filmed each of the bites to determine mandible kinematics. The team then used the combined data to calculate the amount of stress each bite exerted on the roaches’ jaw muscles. The roach bites were surprisingly strong—relating bite force to body weight, a roach bite is about five times more powerful than a human chomp, on average.
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Source: Smithsonian Magazine