OUR VERY OWN: Macropanesthia rothi
OUR VERY OWN: Macropanesthia rothi

Special Agnes discovery leaves experts 'burrowing' for more

AGNES Water can now add a species of cockroach to its list of unique traits.

Macropanesthia rothi is a giant burrowing cockroach species with only three specimens known to science.

Reedy Creek Reserve manager Mat McLean was joined in Agnes Water last week by renowned cockroach expert Dr Harley Rose from The University of Sydney.

Mr McLean said until recently he had spent a decade seeing and mistaking the rothi with the more commonly occurring and understood Macropanesthia rhinoceros.

"The rothi species has virtually no study done on it but we would expect a lot of traits of the very similar rhinoceros species to be applicable,” Mr McLean said.

He said he and Dr Rose believed the rothi was endemic to the greater Agnes Water district.

"The first one was collected in 1971 about 5km south of Agnes Water headland and there's only a couple of others that were collected by Dr Harley Rose,” he said.

Roach story
GOOD APP-ROACH: Reedy Creek Reserve manager Mat McLean and cockroach expert Dr Harley Rose. INSET: Macropanesthia rothi.

"Whereas the Macropenisa rhinoceros is quite widespread from the south east corner into the tropics even.”

He said one explanation for the cockroach existing within the Agnes Water area was the type of soil it provided.

"Dr Rose is very sure that we will only have rothi in the Agnes district and it seems very likely that it will be from Baffle Creek to maybe as far as Rodds Peninsula,” Mr McLean said.

"It's only going to be in sandy soils because it needs to burrow as part of its life cycle. It doesn't excavate, it sort of just pushes its way into the soil so it needs quite loose sandy soil to do that.

"We know it's not further south because when you get to Woodgate and Kinkuna there's a different species there again (Dr Rose) is very sure the two species won't overlap.”

Mr McLean said visually the difference between the rothi and the rhinoceros species was minimal, marked by "a couple of extra spines” on the rothi's abdomen.

He said it brought him great joy to discover the town had its very own cockroach species.

"They're not the most obvious animal but whenever I've found evidence of them they're just intriguing straight away because of their sheer size, they're huge compared to most insects so it's just been a real treat for me,” Mr McLean said.

"In (bush) literature it's anything furry, possums, native marsupials, that get all the headlines because they're so cute and here I am with my cockroach going 'Hey guys, why don't we put this on the front cover'.

"I don't get much traction with that but perhaps now that we've discovered we've got our very own species I'll get a bit more.”

Mr McLean was also ecstatic to have been contacted "out of the blue” by Dr Rose last week, a world expert on Australian burrowing cockroaches.

He said the plan now was to assist future study into the species and help fill knowledge gaps on the rothi's biology, life cycle and distribution.

"It might be good to thing of a new common name for it but also I think (Giant Burrowing Cockroach) is quite a good name for eliciting an initial response even if that is 'ick',” Mr McLean said.

He said Dr Rose gave the species its scientific name.

"He named it rothi after somebody Roth who is the godfather of worldwide cockroach taxonomy, if you can believe there is a person out there.”