The first online database catalogue of the world's cockroaches is launched this month.
You may be surprised at the variety - there are about 4500 species of cockroach . They range from the world's smallest, which is three millimetres long, to the world's heaviest, the Australian rhinoceros cockroach (above), which weighs as much as three adult blue tits.
Cockroaches belong to a group called the Blattodea. All of the known species, as well as many thousands of genus and other names, are now brought together in the Blattodea Species File Online (BSF).
BSF is a resource for anyone interested in cockroaches, whether a scientist or someone who keeps them as pets. There are images, common and scientific names, distribution details, references and information about cockroach classification. The database also includes details of type specimens (the original specimen(s) from which species are named).
George Beccaloni, cockroach expert at the Natural History Museum, created the database over the last three years. He pulled together various sources of cockroach information including all the names contained in the 1224 page catalogue by Karlis Princis, which was published in eight parts between 1862 and 1971, plus all the many hundreds of names published since then.
George elaborates, 'I hope that the BSF will be a useful resource for biologists, not only as a source of information about cockroach names and classification, but also as a tool to aid in identifying cockroaches, using the images of specimens, information about species distribution and, in the future, taxonomic keys and PDF copies of original descriptions and other articles.'
'A wide variety of cockroach species are kept in captivity as pets, lab animals, food for insectivorous animals, etc., and, unfortunately, they are often misidentified or their scientific names are misspelt. Hopefully the BSF will help to prevent some of these errors from being made.'
Information in the BSF will continue to be updated as new species are discovered and named. Only a relatively few images of cockroaches are currently in the database but photographs of every species in the Natural History Museum's large collection will be added in the next few months and images of specimens from other museums will follow.
Photographs of living cockroaches in captivity and the wild will also be added, as will pictures of the habitats they live in.
Only last April, George and two other scientists at the Museum revealed that termites were in fact social cockroaches. However, a termite expert volunteer is needed to add the 2800 termite species names to the database.
Visit the Blattodea Species File Online (BSF)