Meet Leaproach, the New Jumping Cockroach

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(Leaproach takes flight; Credit for all images: Mike Picker)

Leaproach, a newly discovered cockroach, has a talent that none of the other 4,000 plus known species of cockroaches has. It's one of the insect world's best jumpers.

The leaping roach, discovered in Cape Town, South Africa, is described in the latest issue of Royal Society Biology Letters.

About a third of an inch long, the roach is technically named Saltoblattella montistabularis, but let's stick with Leaproach. (The researchers came up with that nickname.) Its jumping movements were captured with a high speed camera operating at 2,000 frames per second.

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Analysis of the photos showed that Leaproach propels itself jumping by rapid movements of enlarged hind legs. The muscles of these buff legs contract long before take-off, storing energy that is suddenly released a/la a catapult.

Lead author Mike Picker, a University of Cape Town zoologist, and his colleagues write in the paper that "the jumps are powerful enough to propel the body forwards by nearly 50 body lengths (we can only manage about 2 body lengths) at take-off velocities of 2.1 metres (6.9 feet) per second while experiencing an acceleration of 23 g." 

Note that humans would pass out at only 5 g.

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The authors continue, "Jumping makes up a large proportion of their normal movement, enabling them to move swiftly and agilely between grass and sedge culms." Culms are stems that can bear flowers. And for some reason, this image of a cockroach giddily jumping around flowers reminds me of an old 60's song that somehow became a pop hit at the time.

(The previous two pics showed a male Leaproach. This one is a female.)

Leaproach shares habitat with grasshoppers, which they rival in jumping performance.