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How Cockroaches Escape Predators/Squashing

November 19, 2008

Cockroaches have been studied for many years as a model for understanding animal escape responses. They  didn’t seem to flee in an easily predictable manner. In a new study, the researchers searched for some pattern by repeatedly testing cockroaches as they escaped from threats.

Researchers have found that when cockroaches flee their predators, they choose, seemingly at random, amongst one of a handful of preferred escape routes. (Credit: iStockphoto/Marcus Jones)

What they found is that cockroaches select one of a number of preferred trajectories. . Cockroaches flee along four primary escape routes at fixed angles from the threat.

The researchers aren’t yet sure exactly how the cockroaches manage this at the neural level,

More broadly, the results show that “unpredictable” behavioral patterns in nature can actually be quite structured. Animals that may seem to be carrying out a single behavior pattern with wide variation could instead be choosing between multiple strategies.

As for those of us who might occasionally want to kill a roach or two ourselves, the insects most often choose an escape path directed at a 90 to 180 degree angle from the attack. “This is where squashing could be aimed”

The researchers include Paolo Domenici, Istituto per l’Ambiente Marino Costiero, Istituto di Metodologie Chimiche Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche Localita Sa Mardini, Torregrande Oristano, Italy; David Booth, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK; Jonathan M. Blagburn, University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, PR; and Jonathan P. Bacon, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK.

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