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This wingless male cockroach has an evolutionary secret

The insect in the small sample collection of Lund University in Sweden looked unusual and from the look Vinicius Ferreiraan expert in insect taxonomy and evolutionary biology, “was hilarious.”

Only 2.5 mm in size, Xenomorphon baranowski was a male beetle found in Oaxaca, Mexico in 1991 in the pine and oak forest floor at an altitude of more than 2.9 km above the ground. written by New York Timesthis cockroach that by Richard Baranowski The naturalist discovered, it lacked one of the signature characteristics of cockroaches: the hard frontal covering that scientists call “wing cover”.

After careful examination, Dr. Ferreira described the insect in the Journal of the Linnean Society as a previously unknown species of cockroach with the unique feature of being wingless: Xenomorphon baranowskii.

Wings consume a lot of energy, so over the course of evolutionary history, many insect species have lost the ability to fly independently. But there are more than half a million known species of beetles, and so far all of them have at least some form of hard wing covering.

Even in cases where the cockroach is unable to fly, wing cover is thought to be one of the key tools for their survival. This structure protects their soft body and allows them to fit into small crevices and escape from dangerous situations.

In the case of the strange cockroach that Dr. Ferreira studied, he and his colleagues speculate that the abandonment of flight and the loss of wing coverts could have been a protective measure against being blown away by the strong winds of their habitat.

Dr. Ferreira also relates this species to the evolutionary phenomenon of “paedomorphosis”. In this still-not-well-understood phenomenon, adult females of some species of beetles retain a number of early-life characteristics and look more like larvae, sometimes even losing their wings. The newly discovered male wingless beetle resembles what is seen in females of that species.

But usually, male cockroaches use their power of flight to chase females for mating. So, while the phenomenon of paedomorphosis in female cockroaches has been puzzling, it seems even more illogical that adult male cockroaches do not have wings. “This is the most extreme example of paedomorphosis,” Dr. Ferreira said.

According to Dr. Ferreira, being paedomorphous is not good because it makes the cockroaches more vulnerable to threats and unable to get very far in dangerous situations. But his team hypothesizes that the loss of the front wings could allow a beetle species to become more specialized and more successfully occupy a particular geographic niche.


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