Back in December I told you about the curse of the Albino Cockroach. Well, I told that story in my class this morning, and one of my wonderful students sent me this email:
One of my hissing cockroaches molted a couple of months ago, and I was
able to notice before she darkened back up. I got a couple of good
pictures of her. It was funny because my boyfriend noticed before me and
started freaking out saying that an albino cockroach killed one of my
roaches because he saw her skin sitting there all torn open and didn't
realize that the "albino" roach was actually still her. I thought I'd
share a picture with you in case you wanted to use it in a slideshow or
something. I don't know, I just thought maybe you could use it or
something. If not, that's cool.
So I thought I’d show it to all you (it is really a beautiful picture…)
Every entomologist since the beginning of time has had someone come running up to her and yell “I saw an albino cockroach! It was amazing! Are they rare? Are they different? Is it a new species?!? I wish I had a camera! You would have loved it!”
Oh, to be young and naive again. You hear this exclamation, chuckle to yourself and move on. You see, this isn’t an unusual occurrence in the least–in fact, every single cockroach goes through this “albino” stage several times throughout its adult stage.
Insects have their skeletons on the outside, so in order to get any bigger, they have to shed their exoskeletons and go through a vulnerable stage while they get bigger.
The exoskeleton is what gives most of these insects their coloring, as well. So when the exoskeleton is shed, the pigment is shed with it. As the new, bigger skeleton hardens, it darkens from white to brown or black, and the bigger, badder, no-longer-albino cockroach can go back to its insect-like ways.
These photos of a newly molted cockroach were taken by Ester Beatriz. Nice job, Ester!