American cockroach has bite 50 times stronger than a human’s

American cockroach has bite 50 times stronger than a human’s

The unique biting mechanism of the cockroach consists of horizontal mandibles that are incredibly sharp and packed into the tiny space of the insect’s mouth. These teeth are used to eat, dig, fight, move or even to feed baby cockroaches.

A cockroach can bite with a force 50 times greater than its body weight- that’s five times stronger than a human. The pests are able to do this thanks to a special set of muscles that build up strength to ‘turbocharge’ their jaws, according to a new study published in the journal Public Library of Science ONE.

The unique biting mechanism of the cockroach consists of horizontal mandibles that are incredibly sharp and packed into the tiny space of the insect’s mouth. These teeth are used to eat, dig, fight, move or even to feed baby cockroaches.

Weihmann and his team wanted to find out how such a jaw could work so effectively in the tiny head of a cockroach. To do so, they measured the bite force of hundreds of cockroaches. After sedating the insect with freezing temperatures, the researchers placed it in an aluminum holder while lying on its back. They affixed the cockroach by gluing its head to the holder with dental glue. There was also a notch over the throat to keep the head in place. Instinctually, the cockroach began biting furiously to try and escape.

After measuring over three hundred bites, they discovered the bugs had a wide range of bite strength and duration.

“The weaker, shorter bites were generated by relatively fast muscle fibers, while the longer, stronger bites were driven by additional muscle fibers that take time to reach their maximum force,” said lead researcher Dr. Tom Weihmann of Cambridge University. “These slower muscle fibers give the mandibles a force boost to allow them to exert up to 0.5 Newtons during sustained grasping or chewing.”

“The employment of slow muscle fibers allows very efficiently generated muscle forces with only a minimum of cross section area, and therefore head volume, required.”

Scientists are interested in studying animal superpowers like this in the hopes of discovering new techniques to create more powerful machines for humans. Engineers could incorporate the cockroach’s technique to make small, strong motors or perhaps even very small surgical equipment.

“As insects play a dominant role in many ecosystems, understanding the amount of force that these insects can exert through their mandibles is a pivotal step in better understanding behavioral and ecological processes and enabling bio-inspired engineering,” said Dr. Weihmann.

“Ours is the first study to measure the bite forces of ordinary insects, and we found that the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana, can generate a bite force around 50 times stronger than their own body weight. In relative terms that’s about five times stronger than the force a human can generate with their jaws.”

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