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Leaping cockroach discovered in South Africa

11:00 Fri Dec 9 2011

Scientists in South Africa have discovered a cockroach that can leap horizontally up to 35cm — about five times its body length.

Humans can manage two body lengths at best. The 7cm to 9cm-long leaproach, or Saltoblattella montistabularis, was found in a nature reserve on South Africa's Table Mountain.

University of Cape Town zoologist Mike Picker and his colleagues wrote in the journal, Biology Letters, that the new wingless cockroach was the only one of the 4000 species of cockroaches known to jump.

Professor Picker's research has revealed that the leaproach uses a rubbery protein, called resilin, in its leg muscles to leap.

He found that the animal's velocity at take-off is 2.1 metres per second with an acceleration five times gravity.

NASA astronauts travel to space at 23 times gravity.

Dr Peter Miller, an entomologist at the University of Technology Sydney told The Australian jumping was a great way of moving around for wingless animals.

He said the resilin acted like a catapult, stretching before being released with great force.

After measuring the electrical activity of the leaproach's legs, Professor Picker and his researchers found that the legs were more like those of a grasshopper.