IMAGE:  February 2003 GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
APRIL 2003
Volume 95, Issue 4
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…getting pleasure from reading the obituaries…

e-letters: Cockroaches as heavy breathers

Re the February UCHICAGO.EDU e-bulletin’s link to the item on insect breath research (see “Citations,”): As a biopsychology student at the U of C I worked with cockroaches and had the enviable job of raising these creatures for research. One of these ancient, perfectly evolved insects was the Brazilian variant—very large and relatively inactive for reasons of energy conservation. However, when it was picked up or otherwise threatened, it not only became active it also pumped air noisily through its spiracles to oxygenate itself. This behavior was well known by the biopsychology students familiar with work being done with the various cockroaches in the old labs. Many samples probably live on campus to this day! It is interesting that a lifetime later, science is catching up with what was common knowledge in our little sector of the campus. No doubt the present research is somewhat more sophisticated than our approach—the grab and listen version of pre-digital science—but nonetheless, I think we had at least one species pegged as a mouth breather...err..spiracle breather!

Neil Fiertel, SB’64
Spruce Grove, Alberta

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