Largest fossil cockroach found: Site preserves incredible detail

BOSTON -- Geologists at Ohio State University have found the largest-ever complete fossil of a cockroach, one that lived 55 million years before the first dinosaurs.

The cockroach, along with hundreds of other fossil plants and animals from a coalmine in eastern Ohio, could help scientists better understand the diversity of ancient life and how the Earth's climate has changed throughout history.

The roach lived 300 million years ago, during what geologists call the Carboniferous period, explained Cary Easterday, a master's student in geological sciences at Ohio State. Ohio was a giant tropical swamp then, but this particular site was unusual.

"Normally, we can only hope to find fossils of shell and bones, because they have minerals in them that increase their chances for preservation," Easterday said, "but something unusual about the chemistry of this ancient site preserved organisms without shell or bones with incredible detail."

Easterday presented his findings November 7 at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Boston.

Among features visible in the 3.5-inch long cockroach Arthropleura pustulatus are veins in the insect's wings, and fine bumps covering the wing surface. The roach's legs and antennae, folded around its body, are also evident, as well as mouth parts.

Loren Babcock, associate professor of geological sciences and Easterday's advisor, said scientists have only incomplete answe

Contact: Cary Easterday
Ohio State University

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