An Old World Cockroach Species May Have Originated In North America
January 6, 2014

An Old World Cockroach Species May Have Originated In North America

[ Watch the Video: Cockroach Mystery - Old World Or New World? ]

Gerard LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Ectobius is the genus name for a cockroach that inhabits a large portion of northernmost Europe to southernmost Africa. Fossils of the Ectobius found in Europe, dating back 44 million years, had entomologists believing the species originated in the Old World.

However, a recent discovery of four species of Ectobius in North America say otherwise.

The fossilized species of cockroach was found in the 49-million-year-old Green River Formation in Colorado, suggesting that the Ectobius genus actually originated in the New World instead.

This cockroach species became extinct quickly in North America, but continued to thrive in the European region.

“About 65 years ago, several entomologists in the northeastern US noted that four species of Ectobius were present in North America. It was always assumed that these four newcomers were the first Ectobius species to have ever lived in North America. But the new discovery in Colorado proves that their relatives were here nearly 50 million years ago,” stated corresponding author Dr. Conrad Labandeira, from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington.

One of the species was named E. kohlsi, after David Kohls, who lives near the Green River Formation in Colorado. He has been an avid collector of insect and plant fossils from that location. There are roughly 150,000 insects from the 31,000 slabs of shale in his collection. The Kohls Green River Fossil Insect Collection is located in the Smithsonian’s Department of Paleobiology.

This biogeographic history mimics that of horses, which became extinct in the New World late in the Pleistocene ecological crisis. These horses were re-introduced to North America nearly 11,000 years later by Spanish explorers.

Image Below: A modern Ectobius cockroach (Ectobius vittiventris) from northern Europe. Credit: Amada44, CC-BY-3.0