Dinosaur-Age Cockroach Was Fearsome Predator

100M-year-old insect also had swiveling head, took flight
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 4, 2015 7:00 PM CDT
Dinosaur-Age Cockroach Was Fearsome Predator
The ancient cockroach, preserved in amber.   (Peter Vršansk)

(Newser) – A mean-looking cockroach that lived alongside the dinosaurs had a long neck, swiveling head, and elongated legs that enabled it to surprise prey, New Scientist reports via Gizmodo. Found embedded in amber in Myanmar, the 100-million-year-old insect resembles a cross between a roach, a crane fly, and a praying mantis: "After the first look I knew it was something new," Slovak scientist Peter Vršanský tells the BBC. "Nothing similar runs on Earth today." Vršanský and German colleague Günter Bechly, who revealed the appetizing bug together in the journal Geologica Carpathica, say it likely hunted at night. "This little monster was a solitary hunter, able to run very fast, with a body unlike the vast majority of cockroaches living today," explains Vršanský.

It "frequently" took flight and grabbed prey "with strong short spines developed on its extremely long feet," he adds. Called Manipulator modificaputis, it also had an extra set of eyes on top of its head, probably to spot predators like feathered dinosaurs. On the stomach-settling side, it measured less than half an inch long. So it's not as scary as other insect predators back then, like the Raphidiomimidae—which were "especially drastic and brutal," Vršanský says. They were bug-eating roaches "with a wingspan up to 20cm [nearly 8 inches] and eyes divided into two parts." But compare that to Aegirocassis benmoulae, a 7-foot "bizarre sea creature" 480 million years ago that is an ancient cockroach relative and caught plankton like a whale, the LA Times reports. (Or read about an ancient, fearsome sea creature with "curved teeth the size of bananas.")

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