September 16, 2021
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first_imgThe discovery of a giant cockroach, Lucihormetica luckae, turned out to be a big deal when scientist realized what it could do. Lucihormetica luckae was found to be the first land-based species we know about that uses bioluminescence for defensive mimicry.Such defensive mimicry is common among marine organisms, but unheard of for “terrestrial biota.”The bioluminescence takes the form of three spots (two large, one small) on the back of the cockroach. Each is filled with bacteria that glows when exposed to fluorescent light. The effect is intensified by the fact the spots are covered by a reflective surface, making them act in similar to headlights.When viewed under the right lighting conditions the cockroach actually takes on the look of a Jawa from Star Wars and almost completely hides its own body in light. What it is actually trying to do, is defend against Pyrophorus — a toxic click beetle that shares its habitat… or at least did.Unfortunately, we may never know any more about Lucihormetica luckae. It was only ever found in Ecuador living in a very remote location around the Tungurahua volcano. After it erupted in 2010 no one has yet to come into contact with the cockroach again, suggesting it may now be extinct due to that natural event.The possible extinction of the cockroach has been highlighted recently in the journal Naturwissenschaften (Natural Science), which includes details of 13 known species of luminescent cockroaches. Among these only Lucihormetica luckae demonstrated the defensive mimicry. It was also unusual in a number of other ways, including its relatively small size (24mm long) and unique reproductive organs.The discovery (and loss) of Lucihormetica luckae should act as a reminder that there is still so much that we haven’t discovered in the world. This cockroach is one from over 644 cataloged species. How many more don’t we know about yet? Just as importantly, how many species are there yet to be discovered that could help advance both medicine and technology in some way? Lets hope we find them before they disappear.More at Naturwissenschaften and[Image credit: David Tores Costales]last_img