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Can Cockroaches Survive A Nuclear Explosion

Additional Radiation-Resistant Animals Since the early twentieth century, humans have recognized that insects are more resistant to radiation than humans. Dr. W.P. Davey discovered in 1919 that a dose of 60 rads of x-radiation actually increased the lifespan of flour beetles. Dr. J.M. Cork performed and verified the experiment in 1957. Drs. Wharton and Wharton discovered in the same year that 1000 rads impair cockroach fertility (roughly the dosage reported 20 kilometers from Hiroshima Ground Zero) and 6400 rads kill 93 percent of immature German cockroaches. In other words, German cockroaches are only around six to fifteen times as radioresistant as humans! The Whartons discovered that 64,000 rads (1800 grays) were necessary to kill fruit flies and 180,000 rads (1800 grays) were required to kill the wasp Harbobracon. D.D. Horikawa's team discovered that the tardigrade, or water bear, could withstand 5000 grays.

Of course, any exposed cockroach would not survive being struck by a missile, nor would it survive the tremendous shock wave that would follow, nor would it survive the sky-high radiation levels. What is true is that insects are typically more resistant to radiation than vertebrates, owing to their smaller size and filtering exoskeleton, and that some pest cockroaches are well-known for their ability to live on very little food and reproduce at an astonishing pace given their size. As a result, many academics think that cockroaches will certainly live longer than vertebrates in cities devastated by a large nuclear accident or assault. Time will tell if this is true or not.

While cockroaches are not well equipped to survive nuclear fallout in comparison to various microbes and the majority of their insect cousins, these little critters are extremely hardy, with fossil records dating all the way back to 300 million B.C., predating dinosaurs by approximately 70 million years. Cockroaches have been found to live almost a month without their heads. Additionally, they can live for up to 45 minutes without oxygen and on very low-quality food such as the glue on a postage stamp or cellulose. [Adapted from Misconception Junction]

The concept seemed reasonable, since cockroaches are hardy small creatures. Some are capable of going months without food, and they do possess some qualities that would enable them to survive a nuclear war long after we comparatively frail humans have exhaled our last breaths. Roaches breed rapidly and in great numbers, giving them an evolutionary advantage over slower reproducing species. Cockroaches also have a better radiation tolerance than other animals (particularly humans), albeit this would only help them survive the longer-term radioactive pollution that may result from a nuclear explosion. Cockroaches anywhere near nuclear ground zero, like the rest of us, would be crisped.

Can Cockroaches Survive A Nuclear Blast

Why are roaches capable of surviving a nuclear explosion? Cockroaches reproduce rapidly, lay vast numbers of eggs, and are more resistant to chemical control than other household insects, all of which may contribute to the widespread misconception that they can endure anything, even a nuclear explosion. They are extremely well guarded, Elgar said.

Ionizing radiation at low and extended doses may cause illnesses such as cancer and raise the likelihood of developing a variety of chronic ailments, most notably cardiovascular disease. Cells may be killed at high dosages. Nuclear explosions are also particularly harmful because radioactive materials may collect and recirculate in the environment 3⁄4 in freshwater systems, the ocean, and the earth.

(By contrast, the Hiroshima bomb released radioactive gamma rays with an intensity of around 10,000 rads.) Because radiation eventually damages animals on a cellular level, the MythBusters observed the radiated roaches for 30 days. After a month, half of the roaches subjected to 1,000 rads were still alive, while an astounding 10% of the roaches exposed to 10,000 rads were still alive. The findings indicated that cockroaches are capable of surviving nuclear explosions â but only to a point, since none of the animals in the 100,000 rad group survived. [Watch a YouTube video clip]

Marcus was the inspiration for today's Wonder of the Day. Marcus Ponders, âCould a cockroach survive a nuclear war? âCould a cockroach survive a nuclear war? We appreciate your WONDERing with us, Marcus! Have you ever been cleaning out your garage or basement and seen a hard-shelled insect that crept out from behind something and startled you? You may have exclaimed, "Eek!" or "Yikes!" or perhaps "Ewww!"

Can Cockroaches Survive A Nuclear Bomb

Many people assume that cockroaches can survive a nuclear explosion and the resulting radiation exposure, but is this true? The creepy crawlies do have a reputation for persistence, which media sources indicate stems from stories that insects persisted after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic strikes.

For the majority of animals, the absence of a head spells the end of their existence. Rarely do you come across an article about someone who was beheaded yet "lived a fulfilling life well into their seventies." If the blood loss didn't kill you, and the loss of control over your pulse and lungs didn't kill you (which they both would), you'd quickly find it impossible to consume enough food to continue surviving. As scientists have shown with worrisome regularity, cockroaches may survive for many rather perplexing weeks after decapitation. They are able to withstand decapitation by clotting at the neck. Their breathing occurs via little openings called spiracles in their body, which are not regulated by the brain. Due to their cold-blooded nature, they need less nourishment than warm-blooded snowflakes like us and may survive for weeks on the food they consumed before to decapitation day.

The physics underlying the roaches' resistance to radiation is that they have incredibly basic and sluggish cell cycles that are difficult for radiation to disrupt. Cells are most susceptible to radiation when they divide, and since this occurs seldom in cockroaches, they have a greater tolerance. Cockroaches are thus invulnerable to a nuclear bomb? Not exactly. The explosion would disintegrate the invertebrates, which would then cook in the blast's heat. Additionally, since modern nuclear weapons are substantially stronger than those used in 1945, they would be subjected to much more testing under modern circumstances.

Marcus was the inspiration for today's Wonder of the Day. Marcus Ponders, âCould a cockroach survive a nuclear war? âCould a cockroach survive a nuclear war? We appreciate your WONDERing with us, Marcus! Have you ever been cleaning out your garage or basement and seen a hard-shelled insect that crept out from behind something and startled you? You may have exclaimed, "Eek!" or "Yikes!" or perhaps "Ewww!"

Can Cockroaches Really Survive A Nuclear Explosion

Mythbusters investigated the cockroach phenomenon and discovered some intriguing data (read down to âCockroach survivalâ, about 1/3 down). In short, scientists discovered that although cockroaches may withstand radiation levels that are fatal to humans, other insects fared better. As for why, the following is a brief overview from Wikipedia, with further information available in the source material:

As a result, many academics think that cockroaches will certainly live longer than vertebrates in cities devastated by a large nuclear accident or assault. Time will tell if this is true or not. Insecticides are now carefully chosen compounds that attack the neurological system of insects, causing death as quickly as possible while remaining persistent on surfaces (residual effect). They are intended to eliminate cockroaches. While nuclear strikes are intended to completely destroy cities. That is all. The proper weapon for the proper adversary.

"There is some evidence that they are highly robust to gamma rays, albeit they are not the most resistant insects," evolutionary researcher Mark Elgar told EarthSky. "One may argue that certain ants, especially those that burrow their nests deeply into the earth, are more likely to survive an apocalypse than cockroaches." To address the second question, it seems that cockroaches will not inherit the Earth after all.

âYou might argue,â Professor Elgar continues, âthat some ants, especially those that burrow their nests deep into the earth, would be more likely to survive an apocalypse than cockroaches.

âPrevious radiation testing on insects revealed that cockroaches, although being six to fifteen times more resistant than humans, would nonetheless suffer worse than the common fruit fly.

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