Thursday, February 18, 2021

Melyroidea magnifica Eusocial? Probably Not...

Alright, I'm posting about this because this article seems to have gone viral in my bug circles on social media, (and how could it not, they're such pretty roaches!). While Melyroidea magnifica is certainly an amazing species, and a convincing blister beetle mimic, the claims in the most recent paper about them, "Neotropical Melyroidea group cockroaches reveal various degrees of (eu)sociality" are absolute BS. The author, Peter Vrsansky, is notorious in the cockroach taxonomist community for publishing papers with crazy theories and very little substantial evidence to support them. Most of his work is on fossil roach species, where he often claims they had ecological behaviors he has no way of confirming, but he occasionally dips into the taxonomy and behavioral studies of extant members of the Blattodea as well...

The cockroach in question, Melyroidea magnifica. ©Thierry Garcia
In the case of Melyroidea, no different castes were ever observed, I don't believe cooperative brood care was properly documented either, and the pale "queen" individuals they refer to in this paper (which they never collected for observation conveniently) were most likely just freshly molted, normal adults. If you look at the pictures of the nymphs they took in the paper, most of them appear to be subadults, so everytime they checked on the "colony" in the wild, and saw a "queen", what they most likely were seeing were different, freshly molted adults, simple as that. 

A figure from the paper, ©Anton Sorokin & Adrian Tejedor
The evidence provided for their theory that this species is eusocial is dubious at best, and there are a plethora of other issues in the paper, from the fact that they failed to describe the genitalia of the "new" Melyroidea species they described, (which may actually just be a color morph of M.magnifica), to the claims that Melyroidea don't have proper chewing mouthparts, yet were observed eating algae and supposedly made their own tunnels in rotten wood... How the heck do they eat if they can't chew, suction? Quite a stretch indeed, considering no other roach species deviates from the normal chewing mouthparts, except for 1st and maybe 2nd instars of certain species of genera like Perisphaerus and Pseudoglomeris. This "scientist" and his team unfortunately seem to know very little about cockroaches, and I have yet to see a single other cockroach taxonomist that agrees with all the findings of this paper. 
For more info and discussion between actual cockroach taxonomists, and their doubts about the paper, please see this post here.

Anyways, that's gonna do it for this post, I've talked about this all on social media before but had yet to make a blog post about it, figured I would do so now. 🙂 I hope everyone enjoyed, thanks for reading, stay safe, and I'll see you all in the next post! 😉

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