10 Living Things That Are Loving Global Warming

By Terrell Johnson
Published: June 6, 2014

#10: Cockroaches

Future-Proofed for Climate Change

Future-Proofed for Climate Change

Dr. Harley Rose, Australia's leading evolutionary biologist in native cockroaches, admires 'Keith Richards,' one of the world's largest cockroaches, at his laboratory at the University of Sydney. (Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Future-Proofed for Climate Change
  • Future-Proofed for Climate Change
  • Future-Proofed for Climate Change
  • Future-Proofed for Climate Change
  • Future-Proofed for Climate Change
  • Future-Proofed for Climate Change

Hate them, fear them, loathe them, stomp them with a shoe whenever you see them. But they'll probably continue to thrive on this planet long after humans are gone.

That's because cockroaches – of which there are nearly 5,000 different species – are able to adapt amazingly well to new environments. They reproduce in big numbers — a single female can produce as many as 400 offspring in her lifetime — allowing them to pass on genetic mutations that help them survive whatever humans do to trap and kill them.

How will they adapt to a warmer world? As a 2009 study by scientists at Australia's University of Brisbane discovered, cockroaches breathe through tiny openings in their bodies called spiracles, which they can close for up to 40 minutes to conserve water. And in dry environments, they take shorter breaths to reduce the amount of water lost to respiration.

This will help them colonize warmer, drier climates, University of Oxford entomologist George McGavin told New Scientist. "Living in the humid conditions of a rainforest, where they evolved, might be plain sailing, but cockroaches are adaptable and can cope in a wide range of environmental conditions," he added.

While a warming Earth will make life difficult for many slow-to-adapt human societies, the future looks bright for these insects. "Two hundred and fifty million years of physiological fine tuning has produced a creature that will be around for a long time to come," he added in the interview. "Cockroaches will do well in the face of climate change."


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