Cockroaches are often perceived as a nuisance and pests inside the home. These persistent and thriving insects maybe most common in the urban setting but, unknown to most people, a great number of cockroach species can be found in the lush greeneries of the forest.

Just this year, young cockroach systematist Cristian Lucañas found a unique, forest-dwelling cockroach in the remote island of Sibuyan, Romblon. In a recent paper published in Halteres (Volume 9, 151-156, 2018), the roach expert described a new species belonging to a new genus of cockroach which he named Gapudipentax guiting.

The article can be downloaded via https://zenodo.org/record/1418609

According to the author, the genus name came from two words: “Gapud” as a tribute to the contributions of the late Filipino entomologist Dr. Victor P. Gapud on Philippine insect systematics, and “pentax” which describes the species’ unique pentagonal pronotum. Dr. Gapud was the director of the UPLB Museum of Natural History from 1982 to 1985 who significantly contributed to the expansion of the entomological collections of MNH.

“When I looked at the genitalia of the specimens from Sibuyan Island, I saw that they were unique. They were very different from cockroaches found in mainland Asia and Australia and that was enough to assign them to a new genus,” Lucañas explained in an interview.

“To my knowledge, this is the only genus endemic to Sibuyan Island and the second species endemic to the island; the other being Perisphaerus aeneus. “Gapudipentax is the fifth genus endemic to the Philippines and we suspect that more new species are just waiting to be found,” Cristian added.

The genus as of now is represented by the single species, Gapudipentax guiting. The species’ name was derived from Mt. Guiting-guiting, a 2,050-meter-high mountain in the island where the specimens were collected. “Guiting” is also a local term for “teeth” and resemble the spikes on the tarsal claws of the newly described insect.

This discovery highlights the underestimated diversity of uncharismatic groups of organisms such as cockroaches. Because novel taxa are usually discovered in unexplored areas and habitats, the need to pursue research in island forests and caves should be underscored.

“Cockroaches are important components of the ecosystem. Their primary role is in nutrient cycling which is crucial for growth of trees both in natural and human-mediated forests,” Lucañas added.


Images courtesy of Cristian Lucañas and Halteres.


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