Washington DC: The mighty cockroach can pack a powerful bite with 50 times more force than the bug's body weight, according to a new research.
The study indicates that cockroaches use a combination of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers to give their mandibles a 'force boost' that allows them to chew through tough materials.
The research shows that cockroaches activate slow twitch muscle fibres only when chewing on tough material such as wood that requires repetitive, hard biting to generate a bite force 50 times stronger than their own body weight.
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 behavioural and ecological processes and enabling bioinspired engineering, explains lead author Tom Weihmann from the University of Cambridge.
Weihmann added that insects provide a major part of the faunal biomass in many terrestrial ecosystems. Therefore they are an important food source but also crucial as decomposers of plants and animals. In this way they are crucial for material cycles and the ecological balance.
He added that they 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.
Weihmann explains that gaining a better understanding of how the delicate structure of the head capsule withstands such powerful forces over an insect's lifetime could also have interesting applications for bioinspired engineering.
The study is published today in PLOS ONE.