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View Full Version : What would happen, ecoligically, if we were able to make cockroaches extinct?


dnooman
08-07-2007, 12:32 AM
Granted it's a bit of a far fetched premise, but suppose it could happen. Would their prey thrive? Would their predators starve? Perhaps an ecological niche might be filled by a more insidious form of pest?

On a more broad note, is there any form of "pest" type insect that could be eradicated with minimal ecological damage?

Blake
08-07-2007, 03:30 AM
There are thousands of species of cockroaches occupying most of the planet and a huge variety of ecological niches from eusocial termite analogues with queens and workers through to hemi-parsites, den parasites, and cave dwellers. They range in size from a few millimetres to over 3 1/2 inches. In many environments cockroaches are the single most common animal species.

Needless to say if we exterminated such a diverse and populous group we would cause massive ecological damage, but it;s hard to rpedict how severe it might be. We could resonably expect a few keystone species to be cockraoches in whcih case total collapse of a few ecostsyetms woudl be a reasonable prediction.

Would their prey thrive?

As far as I know there are no predatory cockroaches. Most species will scavenge dying animals but none that I have ever heard of are predators. So in answer to your question: no.

Would their predators starve?

In many cases yes.

Perhaps an ecological niche might be filled by a more insidious form of pest?

That would be far preferable to the alternative, which is what would happen in the majority of cases.

On a more broad note, is there any form of "pest" type insect that could be eradicated with minimal ecological damage?

Human lice. They have no significant effect on the human life cycle any more and they have absolutely no effect on any other species. Total ecological damgae from eradication: nil.

dnooman
08-07-2007, 03:37 AM
Thanks. Also, cheers!

Mangetout
08-07-2007, 04:45 AM
Human lice. They have no significant effect on the human life cycle any more and they have absolutely no effect on any other species. Total ecological damgae from eradication: nil.Actually, I daresay the ecological effect could be a mild positive - due to the reduced necessity of insecticidal shampoos.

Johnny Hildo
08-07-2007, 10:32 AM
On a more broad note, is there any form of "pest" type insect that could be eradicated with minimal ecological damage?

I don't think anyone would be missing the tapeworm.

Annie-Xmas
08-07-2007, 10:35 AM
On a more broad note, is there any form of "pest" type insect that could be eradicated with minimal ecological damage?

The entire human race.

vetbridge
08-07-2007, 01:26 PM
I don't think anyone would be missing the tapeworm.
I would! I make a (admittedly small) potion of my income treating pets to make them tapeworm free. Also, tapeworm segments passing in the pet's feces are a way for owners to monitor their pet's flea status. (The flea acts as an intermediate host) ;)

Captain Amazing
08-07-2007, 02:09 PM
The entire human race.
While you're being tongue in cheek, I'm sure, the extinction of humans would have a massive impact on the ecology of the world.

Derleth
08-07-2007, 02:15 PM
The entire human race.I can think of one animal species (silkworm) and a handful of plant species (corn, other plants we mutated to be better food crops) that would go extinct if humans died out, as well as a large number of phenotype variants (dog and cat breeds).

SpartanDC
08-07-2007, 02:32 PM
I've often wondered this same question about the common rat (as I have a severe fear of them and wish I could use a Cerebro-type device to find and kill them all instantly). Do any species actually feed upon rats to the extent that their lives would be impacted if they all disappeared?

What Exit?
08-07-2007, 02:33 PM
I can think of one animal species (silkworm) and a handful of plant species (corn, other plants we mutated to be better food crops) that would go extinct if humans died out, as well as a large number of phenotype variants (dog and cat breeds).
Are you sayings cats and dogs would go extinct or just suffer a large drop in numbers?

Neither species is likely to go extinct. Cats are well adapted to continue on without humans, they can prey on almost anything smaller than themselves and scavenge. Dogs seem to do well in the wild. It would probably only take a few generations for Dogs to breed into a very successful predator that would cover a wide area of the globe.

If we are talking about a large drop in numbers, you should add the creatures that thrive on human civilization to the list like rats. Most domesticated species would probably suffer huge losses in numbers.

Jim

Sapo
08-07-2007, 02:42 PM
The entire human race.
Some sources state that this would put an end to the bullshit.

Speaker for the Dead
08-07-2007, 02:56 PM
Dogs seem to do well in the wild. It would probably only take a few generations for Dogs to breed into a very successful predator that would cover a wide area of the globe.I imagine one looking something like this. (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/60/Scandinavian_grey_wolf_Canis_lupus_.jpg)

What Exit?
08-07-2007, 04:10 PM
I imagine one looking something like this. (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/60/Scandinavian_grey_wolf_Canis_lupus_.jpg)
:D
I would think more like a Coydogs and Dingos, rather than breed back to a Grey Wolf in a few generations.

Derleth
08-07-2007, 05:23 PM
What Exit?: I knew I wasn't quite clear enough, I just didn't know how to clarify. What I meant was that most of the breeds we've produced (from Chihuahuas to Corgis to Mastiffs) would not be viable in the wild and would not last long in their pure (phenotypically (physical traits) or genotypically (genes)) form anyway. After a few generations, the dogs that lived long enough to reproduce will have produced a bunch of mutt puppies to carry on the non-pure-wolf Canid bloodline. The pure breeds would be lost forever, though that doesn't qualify as extinction because the breeds are not distinct species.

Ditto all that for cats, of course.

hotflungwok
08-07-2007, 05:25 PM
What about mosquitos?

Zany Zeolite Zipper
08-07-2007, 05:47 PM
What about mosquitos?

Trout fishermen, bats, and birds would not be very happy.

I think we could eliminate most/all human parasites and diseases, as we have short circuited natural selection in humans.

beowulff
08-07-2007, 05:54 PM
The entire human race.
Well, the Dogs and Cats wouldn't be happy...

Blake
08-07-2007, 08:18 PM
I donít think people are thinking about there responses here.


I don't think anyone would be missing the tapeworm.

Firstly tapeworms arenít insects, theyíre, well theyíre worms.

There are over 5, 00 species of tapeworm, many of them are significant of not primary controllers of animal populations. Extermination of tapeworms would potentially be the greatest ecological catastrophe in the history of humanity.

Do any species actually feed upon rats to the extent that their lives would be impacted if they all disappeared?

There are around 1, 00 species of rats, and yes there are numerous species that are primarily dependant on them for food. More importantly there are countless plant species which depend on them for survival, and millions more that are kept in check be seed predation by rats.

What about mosquitos?

Total ecological catastrophe. Never mind the predator species, mosquitoes are major vectors of diseases that control animal and plant populations. No mosquitoes, no disease, massive population explosion.

I think we could eliminate most/all human parasites and diseases, as we have short circuited natural selection in humans.

Most human parasites and diseases arenít exclusive to humans, so the ecological impact of extinction would be potentially massive.

Derleth
08-08-2007, 11:57 AM
Blake: Do you mean 5,000 and 1,000 or 500 and 100?

Derleth
08-08-2007, 12:02 PM
What about mosquitos?A more interesting question is what if we killed off all anopheles mosquitoes. (http://boards.academicpursuits.us/sdmb/showthread.php?t=176041) (Yes, the thread title is a reference. If you think it's wrong you don't get the joke.)

hotflungwok
08-08-2007, 12:25 PM
Total ecological catastrophe. Never mind the predator species, mosquitoes are major vectors of diseases that control animal and plant populations. No mosquitoes, no disease, massive population explosion.

Couldn't we just encourage hunting? And... vegetarians?

DrDeth
08-08-2007, 02:08 PM
There are thousands of species of cockroaches occupying most of the planet and a huge variety of ecological niches from eusocial termite analogues with queens and workers through to hemi-parsites, den parasites, and cave dwellers. They range in size from a few millimetres to over 3 1/2 inches. In many environments cockroaches are the single most common animal species.

Needless to say if we exterminated such a diverse and populous group we would cause massive ecological damage, but it;s hard to rpedict how severe it might be. We could resonably expect a few keystone species to be cockraoches in whcih case total collapse of a few ecostsyetms woudl be a reasonable prediction.
.

Right. However, if we just eliminated the German Brown Cockroach, the one sometimes called the house roach, it would not be automatically be such massive ecological damage. Other than a much lower "eeeewwww" factor, and less human disease, it might not cause more than a blip.

But if one eliminates any widespread common species, there could be unforseen consequences.

We pretty much know what would happen if the CA Condor went extinct- nothing. But that's because they are so rare and their niche (eating dead mastodons :p ) is long gone.

carterba
08-08-2007, 03:20 PM
I don't think anyone would be missing the tapeworm.I recently read Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer. There is an interesting section in which he discusses the relationship between tapeworms and auto-immune disorders like Crohn's disease. Apparently as populations have become more affluent and tapeworms less frequent, the incidence of Crohn's disease has risen. It happened to American Jews in the 20's and 30's, whites in the 40's, blacks in the 60's and 70's; there was also apparently an explosion of Crohn's diagnoses in Japan and South Korea in the latter half of the 20th century. So, wondering whether there was a connection, some researchers fed tapeworm eggs to people diagnosed with Crohn's disease. They found that patients given tapeworm eggs had their condition go into remission sooner and stay in remission longer than patients that didn't get the eggs.

Here's an article about it from the NY Times: link (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A0DE6DB113BF932A0575BC0A96F958260&sec=health&spon=&pagewanted=print)

This has also been tried and found successful for multiple sclerosis patients: http://bioedonline.org/news/news.cfm?art=3061

So the effect of the eradication of a species on an ecosystem can be highly unpredictable.

kitemaker_chuck
08-08-2007, 07:06 PM
If cockroaches did become extinct, wouldn't another species of insect (or other animal) just fill the "ecological" niche left by the cockroach?

Johnny Hildo
08-09-2007, 12:37 AM
I recently read Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer. There is an interesting section in which he discusses the relationship between tapeworms and auto-immune disorders like Crohn's disease. Apparently as populations have become more affluent and tapeworms less frequent, the incidence of Crohn's disease has risen. It happened to American Jews in the 20's and 30's, whites in the 40's, blacks in the 60's and 70's; there was also apparently an explosion of Crohn's diagnoses in Japan and South Korea in the latter half of the 20th century. So, wondering whether there was a connection, some researchers fed tapeworm eggs to people diagnosed with Crohn's disease. They found that patients given tapeworm eggs had their condition go into remission sooner and stay in remission longer than patients that didn't get the eggs.

Here's an article about it from the NY Times: link (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A0DE6DB113BF932A0575BC0A96F958260&sec=health&spon=&pagewanted=print)

This has also been tried and found successful for multiple sclerosis patients: http://bioedonline.org/news/news.cfm?art=3061

So the effect of the eradication of a species on an ecosystem can be highly unpredictable.

Interesting in the sense that in the forgotten documentary I watched it said that tapeworms were the only species that held no beneficial aspect to the hosts they were inhabiting whatsoever. I guess dwindling the population of the host isn't too beneficial, but in the grand scheme of things...

Blake
08-09-2007, 03:34 AM
If cockroaches did become extinct, wouldn't another species of insect (or other animal) just fill the "ecological" niche left by the cockroach?

Given tens of millions of years this might well happen. More likely completely different species occupying totally different niches would exploit the food sources and habitat freed up by the extinctions. That is what usuall happens in the case of extinctions. Species actually evolving to fill the same ecological niche is fairly rare.

Either way in the short term there would be knock-on extinctions and shifts in ecosystems.

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