UNM cockroach scientist discovers 39 new species

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – For the past four years, Heidi Hopkins has quite literally put roaches under a microscope. The UNM Ph.D. candidate has a passion and respect for the much maligned insect.

“Cockroaches have terrible press you might say,” Hopkins said. “People have a lot of mistaken notions about cockroaches.”

Hopkins examined the genus Arenivaga, which, since 1920 was believed to have just nine species. Hopkins ended up describing 39 new species.

“In a group that hasn’t been looked at in at least a century, you’d think you’re going to find at least one more. The surprise was how many I found,” Hopkins said.

The desert cockroaches Hopkins described are spread out across the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. They live largely underground in extremely hot and dry places.

So could they survive a nuclear winter? Hopkins said that’s not clear, but humans could learn a lot about survival from cockroaches.

“These animals and others like them could teach us a great deal about how to live on a planet that’s going through such significant climate change,” Hopkins said.

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