Cockroaches can bite five times more powerfully than humans

A study published in scientific journal Plos One on Thursday has revealed that the bite force of cockroaches is five times more than that of humans. According to the study, cockroaches use slow and fast twitch muscle fibers simultaneously, which make their mandibles powerful enough to chew tough materials.

Findings of the study are suggesting that the slow twitch muscle fibers only get triggered when the cockroaches need to chew tough objects such as wood. For creating a bite force, which is 50 times more powerful than its total body weight, a cockroach needs to use repetitive and hard biting.

Tom Weihmann, the study’s lead author and a representative of the Department of Zoology of the University of Cambridge, said that as insects have a significant role to play in most ecosystems, it’s extremely important to know the amount of force they can exert with their mandibles for comprehending ecological and behavioral processes better and enabling bio-inspired engineering.

Weihmann added that in a number of terrestrial ecosystems, insects form an integral part of the faunal biomass. This is because they are not just an important food source, but also a crucial decomposer for animals and plants. This means insects play an extremely crucial role in material cycles and their existence is important for maintaining ecological balance.

Weihmann said that this new study conducted by him and his team is the first one to measure the bite force of an ordinary insect. The research team under him discovered that Periplaneta americana or American cockroaches are capable of generating a bite force which is five times more powerful than the bite force produced by the jaw of a human. According to the lead author, when it comes to their biting abilities and mouthparts, cockroaches are “extraordinarily ordinary insects”.

Previously, researchers have carried out studies to determine bite force of larger animals, particularly vertebrates with teethed jaws that they use for grinding different food items, catching prey or fending off animals of other species.

Cockroaches are insects with much different biting mouthparts compared to the vertebrates with teethed jaws. For instance, they have a pair of powerful, horizontally aligned mandibles or bladelike jaws. Insects use their mandibles for tearing apart food items, transferring food, feeding offspring, digging, and defending.