How Hard Can A Cockroach Bite? New Study Offers Surprising Answer

A new study on cockroaches has determined an incredibly powerful jaw set that enables the insects to bite things with a force of more than 50 times their own body weight. To put that in perspective, that’s like a 150 pound human biting with a force of more than 7,500 pounds.

In the new study, scientists from the University of Cambridge in England, Friedrich Schiller University, and the University of Stuttgart, both from Germany, explained how cockroaches use a combination of slow and fast twitch muscle fibers to give their mandibles an added severity to their bite. The scientists deduce that cockroaches have developed this insane bite so that they can chew through tough materials when burrowing. The researchers say that this “twitch” mechanism is only enabled when the cockroaches have a need for it.

Tom Wehmann, the lead author from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology commented on the cockroach study.

“As insects play a dominant role in many ecosystems, understanding the amount of force that these insects can exert through their mandibles is a pivotal step in better understanding behavioral and ecological processes and enabling bio-inspired engineering. Insects provide a major part of the faunal biomass in many terrestrial ecosystems. Therefore, they are an important food source but also crucial as decomposers of plants and animals. In this way they are crucial for material cycles and the ecological balance.”

Roaches [Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images]These mandibles – what might be called the jaws of the cockroach – are attached to the insect’s head capsule, which comprises of a multi-layered cuticle and forms a sophisticated structure within its exoskeleton. All the driving muscles for the mandibles are completely enclosed in the head capsule, alongside numerous other vital organs of the central nervous and digestive system.

The mandibles or jaws of not only cockroaches, but all insects, are a pivotal component in the animal’s defense, digging, feeding their young, transport and even shredding food.

Weihmann continued, speaking to the study of how hard insects can bite.

“Ours is the first study to measure the bite forces of ordinary insects, and we found that the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana, can generate a bite force around 50 times stronger than their own body weight. In relative terms that’s about five times stronger than the force a human can generate with their jaws.”

Cockroach [Photo by Al Barry/Three Lions/Getty Images]An old adage states that after everything else has been destroyed on planet Earth, the cockroaches will live on, as it seems that their ability to adapt and thrive in virtually any environment is unparalleled. Their adaptability, however, doesn’t seem to be the most amazing thing about the insect. Did you know that a cockroach can live up to a week without its head? It’s true. Cockroaches can breathe through several holes throughout their body, so even though the head is severed, the cockroach can still breathe just fine. However, they can’t eat or drink through those holes, so dehydration would finally kill the insect after a headless week or so. Additionally, if they didn’t need the water, cockroaches could live up to a month without a head because they can easily go that long without food.

It seems that air is really the least of a cockroaches problems. Scientists say that the insects can be submerged in water for up to 40 minutes. Apparently, cockroaches often hold their breath to conserve body liquid, and as such, they’re used to air deprivation.

Cockroaches have been around for a long, long, long time. They are believed to have first originated over 280 million years ago in the Carboniferous era.

If you’ve ever had a cockroach infestation in your home, you can probably attest to how quickly they seem to move. The truth is, scientists say that cockroaches can move up to 3 miles per hour, which may not seem all that fast. However, given their small size, 3 miles per hour is actually cruising at a pretty good clip.

The discovery of the cockroach’s incredible bite adds just one more detail to the long list of incredible facts about cockroaches. This latest research on cockroaches was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)