5/3/2021: A flat-out nifty roach project
Even though I posted about some of the roaches collected on the Florida trip, I feel I haven’t really done many roach related blog posts despite that being the primary focus of this site!
A few new species have popped up in the hobby over the last few years, but not many people have had consistent success with some of them. Alberto “Junior” Marquez is one of those folks with a natural knack for some of the trickier species and he was kind enough to hold some groups of these species for me until they were ready to ship.
Unique roaches are particularly fascinating to me; I feel that there is a generalized “roachy” body shape and when a species adapts something drastically different from that plan they’re particularly fascinating. The roly-poly roaches (which I am working on acquiring once more as my colony unfortunately crashed years ago) are one of these, as are Therea sp.; their exceptional convergence and mimicry to other insects is something very few other invertebrate groups can consistently pull off. Sure, there are some weird looking spiders and ants… But in most cases the general body plan is the same across tens of thousands of species and even an amateur entomologist can tell what they are at a quick glance.
Lanxoblatta rudis is definitely one of those extremely bizarre roaches where the behavior and topical morphology really throw you for a loop. They’re flat as can be bark and rock huggers and if I encountered one, other than the size suggesting otherwise, I would think I was looking at an isopod or a scale bug. This morphology is a defense against one of the biggest threats to invertebrates in tropical places: ants. Those savages are the reason for many unique cockroach adaptations (perhaps I should be more thankful for that…) from the ball-forming defense of Perisphaerus sp. to the chemical defenses of Diploptera sp. As in the roly-poly roaches, Lanxoblatta rudis has adopted the “if you can’t grab me, you can’t eat me” philosophy; the tight adhesion to solid surfaces prevents ants from getting at the underside and the numerous but smooth-surfaced bumps prevent the ants from getting a grip and prying them up. The perfect bark/lichen-covered rock camouflage is most likely an adaptive afterthought.
I’m glad to finally have these guys again and give them a far more proper rearing effort. So far they seem quite content in their enclosure and I’m optimistic that I’ll one day have sheets of bark smothered in them!