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Cohabitating-microbes

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Cockroach Superpower No. 42: They Don’t Need to Pee

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"To survive in hostile environments, cockroaches rely on their own vermin: Blattabacterium, a microbe that hitched a ride inside roaches 140 million years ago, and hasn’t left since.

Researchers who sequenced the Blattabacterium genome have found that it converts waste into molecules necessary for a roach to survive. Every cockroach is a testimony to the power of recycling — thanks to their microbes, they don’t even need to pee.

“Blattabacterium can produce all of the essential amino acids, various vitamins, and other required compounds from a limited palette of metabolic substrates,” write entomologists in a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers have known that cockroaches need the microbes to survive: Kill Blattabacterium with antibiotics, and the insects die. They also knew that roaches store excess nitrogen — one of life’s essential elements, needed to make proteins, amino acids and DNA — inside their bodies, in tiny deposits of uric acid. But researchers didn’t know exactly what became of the uric acid after it was stored, or precisely what Blattobacterium did."

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