The Cockroach’s Ultimate Survival Guide to Earth

Do Cockroaches Have Superpowers?

First, the cockroach can be a thing of some people’s nightmares, but their tale of survival is quite amazing. With 320 million years of experience to perfect their survival mechanisms. And they have built themselves redundant systems to ensure their survival. Some may be creepy, while others are downright extraordinary. For example, here is a shortlist of “superpowers” that contribute to the cockroaches survival.

5 “Superpowers” of Cockroaches


1. Impervious To Radiation

Can cockroaches survive a nuclear blast? You may have heard cockroaches can survive a nuclear blast, this is not true. What is true is that cockroaches have a resistance to radiation 15 times higher than humans so that they could survive a nuclear winter. With their cells regenerating only during molting, they are less susceptible to acute fallout. With a constant cycle of molting, they are collectively able to outlast bursts of radiation.  Any lingering radioactive fallout would still cause harmful effects. Still, they might not be “nuclear-proof,” but they are “radiation-resilient.”

cockroaches survive nuclear blast

2. Can Live Without A Head!

To understand this, we must first dive into cockroach anatomy. Cockroaches do not have lungs but have tracheae attached to spiracles all over their bodies. Spiracles are small holes that allow oxygen to feed thru all the tracheae branches. When a cockroach loses its head, the body can survive independently for up to a week — only succumbing to death due to lack of water.

cockroaches survive underwater for 40 minutes

3. Super-Breathing Abilities

While humans can hold their breath for 2 minutes on average, the cockroach has a record of 40 minutes! This record-breaking ability is possible because of their respiratory system’s controlling water loss through their tracheae tubes. Roaches remove water vapor by opening and closing spiracles and managing the oxygen level in their body.


4. Super-Speed

Roaches are fast.  Only 3mph, but if they were the size of a human, proportionately, they would be able to run 200mph. Even as a nymph they can keep up with their adult counterparts.

5. Can Live in Space

When exposed to minimal atmospheric pressure, frigid temperatures, and high solar radiation like those in space, the cockroach survived with flying colors. Many scientific experiments have concluded this resilient insect can withstand some of the harshest environments of alien planets, however not even the strongest cockroach can survive any extended time in the vacuum of space.

Honorable Mention – Super-DNA

This might not be as crazy a living without a head, but worth a mention; Cockroaches have one of the largest genomes of the insect kingdom. Their developmental plasticity is quite possibly the reason for their survival. With millions of years to grow and adapt to changing conditions, they have become one of Earth’s greatest survivors.