Cockroaches are gross, but it turns out they might do some good in the world. Their genetic code was just fully sequenced, and provided surprising insight into their seemingly eternal survival. Not only can cockroaches multiply quickly, regenerate from traumatizing wounds, fit into any crevice, and survive incredibly forceful physical extermination, but despite their inherent gross factor, they may also hold an important key to help researchers understand human biology.
Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences discovered that when under stress, female cockroaches can lay unfertilized eggs that still hatch due to parthenogenesis. In addition, they uncovered the genes that are responsible for the regeneration of lost limbs and in-body anti-microbial production. These genetic features all could be part of the reason cockroaches have a tendency to become resistant to extermination methods.
Cockroaches may also be able to help improve our robotics. Researchers are interested in the cockroach's exoskeleton, with its ability to withstand over 900 times the cockroach’s body weight and squeeze into tiny spaces through compression. Experts say that if bots can be made with similar features, fields like search and rescue could be revolutionized. There’s still a long way to go in this area of research, but but it’s going to be interesting to see what we can learn from animals like this and what we can take from their genetic mechanisms to use for our own benefit.