The Loh Down On Science


It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a leaproach?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying...

Meet the leaproach: a newly discovered species of cockroach from South Africa. The terrifying beast springs grasshopper-like through the brush of Table Mountain, near Cape Town.

Zoologists Mike Picker and Jonathan Colville came across the leaper in 2006. Figuring out how to classify it took four years. Of the four-thousand known cockroach species, the leaproach is the only one that jumps, instead of "scuttling."

How far? Forty-eight times its own length! Grasshoppers, by contrast, jump about 20. Leaproach's secret? A protein called resilin, which has a characteristic blue fluorescence under UV light.

When the roach tenses to leap, the hind leg muscles transfer their energy to the resilin, which curls up like a ball. When the ball uncoils ... sproing!

Thanks to science, you can see the leaproach in action on YouTube. Move over LOL cats.

The Loh Down on Science, online, at Produced by 89.3 KPCC and the California Institute of Technology, and made possible by TIAA-CREF.

Follow us on Twitter at LohDown.

blog comments powered by Disqus