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New species of cockroach found in Singapore, named after Pokemon character

A new cockroach species has been found in a forested nature reserve in Singapore.

Named after Pheromosa,  a cockroach-like Pokemon that appears in the seventh generation of the video game series, the species was discovered through comparing differences between the male genitalia of specimens with its closest relative from Borneo, among other checks.

Entomologist Foo Maosheng, who co-authored the finding, said: “There are some similarities between Pheromosa and the delicate cockroach that we found, such as having a long antenna, wings that mimic a hood and long slender legs.

“Both my collaborator and I are also Pokemon fans, so we thought why not name the cockroach after a Pokemon inspired by a cockroach.”

Entomology is the study of insects and their relationship to humans, the environment and other organisms.

The discovery of Nocticola pheromosa, published in the Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology on Feb 27, marks the first time a cockroach from the genus Nocticola – which means fond of the night in Latin – has been detected here.

Mr Foo, a scientific officer at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, said: “There are actually very few studies done on cockroaches and termites, in part because they are less charismatic than bees, butterflies and beetles.”

The cockroach’s identity was a mystery when a few male specimens were collected between 2016 and 2017 in a secondary forest in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve during an insect survey.

Mr Foo said: “There were no formal records of the cockroach in Singapore, despite its appearance being recognised among some in the nature community.

“Since its DNA did not match any species recorded online, it does add to the suggestion that this species had not been formally documented.”

Help arrived when Mr Cristian C Lucanas, an entomologist from the UPLB Museum of Natural History in the Philippines and the study’s lead author, chanced upon pictures of the creatures on The Biodiversity of Singapore website and contacted Mr Foo to help with his quest.

Mr Lucanas, who soon realised the cockroach had not been scientifically documented before, decided to publish their findings after dissecting it.

Nocticola pheromosa is more delicate as those of its kind tend to live in well-protected ecosystems. PHOTO: FOO MAOSHENG

The new species joins 22 others from its genus, which has been found in tropical Africa, India, mainland and South-east Asia as well as Australia.

Unlike hardy American cockroaches, which most people tend to associate cockroaches with, Nocticola pheromosa is more delicate as those of its kind tend to live in well-protected ecosystems, said Mr Foo.

But not much is known of the Singapore species, including where exactly they came from.

While some people might be averse to cockroaches, they can play a part in the ecosystem, said Mr Foo.

He said: “A few forest cockroaches are pollinators, and a handful do help with nutrient cycling.

“Cockroaches do have a role but because of negative connotations and their appearance, they tend to be overlooked even during insect surveys.”

For Mr Foo, his love for all insects and Pokemon has earned him the moniker of bug catcher among his students at NUS and other entomologists.

He said: “I’m just like one of those bug-type trainers (in Pokemon) as I go to different places to find out more about what insects we have.

“This contributes to the museum for research and education and The Biodiversity of Singapore website, which is kind of like our local Pokedex.”

The Pheromosa cockroach joins several other creatures named after Pokemon.

In 2021, three Australian beetles identified by their fiery colours were named after rare bird Pokemon Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres.