Living With the Lobster Cockroach

Lobster Cockroach

Lobster Cockroach
Photo: Ed Baker

The lobster cockroach, Nauphoeta cinerea, is an insect that is easy to rear and exhibits many interesting behaviors. A group of scientists* is proposing to use Nauphoeta cinerea as a model to study the effects of toxins on animal behavior. Mammals may more closely resemble humans in behavior and physiology, but mammals are expensive to maintain and experimenters are restricted in they types and numbers of tests they can do. There are fewer limits on insects, they can be reared more cheaply in a smaller space and have a higher rate of reproduction.

As a demonstration, the scientists studied the effects of MethylMercury, a toxin known to modify behavior in mammals. The cockroaches fed methlymercury had notable, concentration-dependent changes in behavior and measurable changes in acetylcholinesteras (a nervous system enzyme) and several detoxification enzymes. Similar behavioral and biochemical deficits are found in rodents exposed to methyl mercury. Nauphoeta cinerea use could greatly expand the number and types of experiments and suggest which tests are most worthy of repeating in lab rats. Use of cockroaches would meet the goal of many national and international agencies of reducing the amount of testing done on mammals.

*Isaac A. Adedaraabc, Denis B. Rosemberga, Diogo O. Souzab, Jean P. Kamdemab, Ebenezer O. Farombic, Michael Aschnerd and Joao B. T. Rocha. Biochemical and behavioral deficits in the lobster cockroach Nauphoeta cinerea model of methylmercury exposure. Toxicol. Res., Advance Article
DOI: 10.1039/C4TX00231H

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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