How Long Have Cockroaches Been Around?
Sometime around 300 million years ago the Permian era began. At the time, the earth was one giant supercontinent called Pangaea, straddling the equator and extending into the southern hemisphere. Pangaea had a hot desert interior and a swampy warm coastline filled with primitive dinosaurs, reptiles, turtles, and frogs. This place was also paradise for roaches. Up to 90 percent of all insects on Pangaea were relatives to the modern cockroach; they had six fast legs, four well-developed folding wings, long, sensitive antennae, and good eyes. The critters were also omnivorous—they could eat anything from fungi and crustaceans to the poop of the 9-foot long amphibian called diadectes.
Pangaea began to break up around 200 million years ago, slowly drifting apart into the continents we know today. And those cockroaches? They went along for the ride. From Madagascar to Australia and North America, cockroaches continued to breed and breed. And they developed amazing survival traits that continue to serve them well 300 million years later in the junk food era. Cockroaches remain incredibly fast. When the fine hairs on their rear end - called appendages or cerci, detect a change in air current, a roach can run off at speeds of 30 inches per second.
Having moved on from dinosaur droppings, cockroaches can eat just about anything, short of plastic, produced by modern humans. Roaches feast on feces and glue, leather, paste, rotting animals, and cardboard. This trait developed in the Permian era is made possible through the prehistoric bacteria coursing through cockroach guts. This bacteria manufactures most of the necessary vitamins and amino acids for the cockroach which allows roaches to eat stuff with zero nutritional value like those old magazines gathering mold in the basement.
Curse the cockroach if you must but remember, us modern humans have only been walking the earth for around 200,000 years. Compared to the roach, we’re evolutionary babies. So when you see that disgusting cockroach waggling its antennae at you it might not be exhibiting fear—it’s probably just laughing at you. Its relatives are going to be eating and breeding long after humanity goes up in a puff of smoke.