Published December 14, 2011
Leaproach or roachhopper?
Either way, it could be your worst dream come true.
Scientists in South Africa have discovered a new form of cockroach -- they named it Saltoblattella montistabularis -- that differs from all other species of the scuttling pests in one key way: It can jump.
In the shrublands of the Silvermine Nature Reserve in Table Mountain National Park in South Africa, the critters jumping and hopping accounted for 71 per cent of its movements, explained Mike Picker and Jonathan Colville from the zoology department of the University of Cape Town and Malcolm Burrows from the University of Cambridge in an article just published in the journal Biology Letters.
"Jumps are powered by rapid and synchronous extension of the hind legs that are twice the length of the other legs and make up 10 percent of the body weight," the researchers wrote. But it gets worse: Not only can the leaproach jump, it can jump incredibly fast over impressive distances.
"In high-speed images of the best jumps the body was accelerated in 10 ms to a take-off velocity of 2.1 m s−1 … leaping a forward distance of 48 times its body length" -- a distance equal to about 50 body lengths.
Such speeds and velocities rival those of grasshoppers, with whom they share their habitat, the scientists noted. Indeed, this jumping ability bests locusts, Picker told the New York Times, which can only manage 20 times their own body lengths.
Your nightmares may just get worse before they get better: Picker believes there may be other species of roachhopper out there just waiting to leap -- if not into your arms, at least into your dreams.