The Lizard Log

The Langkilde Lab in Action

SEECoS 2014: Madagascar Hissing Cockroach Project

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The lab’s high schoolers from the Upward Bound Math and Science (UBMS) program SEECOS (Summer Experience in the Eberly College of Science) have been hard at work in the lab. Here is an update from Kiara and Jermayne, with some extra details from Melissa.

My name is Kiara Camacho and my partner’s name is Jermayne Jones from the Upward Bound Math and Science program. Our research assignment this year was “Measuring Stress: Is timing really everything?” The weather has not been cooperating with us lately, so on July 3rd our trip was cancelled to go hiking for lizards. Instead, we did an experiment to test stress in Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. During this experiment we created our own habitat or arena for the hissing cockroaches using two 2-liter soda bottles that we cut open. We had one dark end and one light end with food or heat stimuli. We created the dark end by covering one soda bottle with a black trash bag. Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches live under leaves in the rainforest, so they are more comfortable in dark environments. In the wild, being out in the open could make hissing cockroaches more vulnerable to predators, and we wanted to see whether food or heat would persuade the cockroaches to face their fears and come out of the dark. After setting up our arena, we numbered the cockroaches and stuck them in the dark end. We left them in there for five minutes and measured how far they came out into the light end. We conducted a total of 6 trials (2 trials for food, heat, and control treatment groups). For food treatment groups we placed bananas covered in fish food in the light end of the bottle. For heat treatments we placed a heat lamp over the light end of the bottle, and for control treatments we did not place a stimulus in the light end of the arena.

 

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The Penn State Entomology Department was kind enough to lend us 25 Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches for our experiment. Photo by Melissa O’Brien.

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This image shows our experimental design. You can see that the cockroach is in the light end of the arena near the food (fish food-covered banana in this case). You can also see the dark end of the bottle with a black trash bag taped over the end. Photo by Tracy Langkilde.

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Two Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches in the dark end of the test arena. We labeled the cockroaches as number one or number two using masking tape. Photo by Tracy Langkilde.

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Jermayne and Kiara monitoring two hissing cockroaches during one of their trials. Photo by Tracy Langkilde.

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Kiara using a sharpie marker to mark the location of a hissing cockroach that ventured into the light end of the arena. Photo by Tracy Langkilde.

Our results showed us that the heat and food treatments convinced 50 percent of the cockroaches to come out of their usual dark environments to the light end (which is a dangerous battle zone for them). Only 16 percent of them came out when there was no heat or food on the other half of the bottle (see control treatment).

This graph shows the proportion of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches that came out of the dark for each treatment. 50% of cockroaches came out of the dark for heat and food treatments, while only 16% of cockroaches came out of the dark in control treatments.

This graph shows the proportion of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches that came out of the dark for each treatment. 50% of cockroaches came out of the dark for heat and food treatments, while only 16% of cockroaches came out of the dark in control treatments.

The results also show us that the food caused the cockroaches to come out farther than the heat did. This tells us that sometimes cockroaches will be brave and face their fears if the reward is great enough for them (Ex: warmth via heat lamp or fish food-covered sliced bananas). This experiment like many others had its challenges. One major challenge that we faced was an escaping cockroach coming out of the side of the bottle causing major panic between our research projects. On the other hand, we managed to catch the cockroach and return it safely to the bottle and proceed with our experiment.

This graph shows the distance Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches moved out of the dark for each treatment group. Cockroaches in the food treatment moved about 18 cm out of the dark and cockroaches in the heat treatment moved about 12 cm out of the dark. Hissing cockroaches in the control treatment moved about 6 cm out of the dark.

This graph shows the distance Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches moved out of the dark for each treatment group. Cockroaches in the food treatment moved about 18 cm out of the dark and cockroaches in the heat treatment moved about 12 cm out of the dark. Hissing cockroaches in the control treatment moved about 6 cm out of the dark.

To learn more about Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, visit the Animal Diversity Web or this informational fact-sheet by Oklahoma State University.

 

 

 

 

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