As if the predator fish that walks and breathes air in Central Park isn’t bad enough, New Yorkers now have a new creature to be creeped out by: A freeze-resistant cockroach never before seen in the United States.

The new species, Periplaneta japonica, was found by an exterminator at the High Line Park on Manhattan’s West Side and was positively identified by Rutgers insect biologists Jessica Ware and Dominic Evangelista, according to a news release from the university.

While cockroaches are already perceived as being one of nature’s more tenacious denizens, New York's newest species takes it up a notch. Not only are they happy to live in warm environments, but unlike New York's other cockroaches, they can withstand frigid temperatures as well.

“About 20 years ago colleagues of ours in Japan reared nymphs of this species and measured their tolerance to being able to survive in snow,” said Ware, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Rutgers-Newark. “As the species has invaded Korea and China, there has been some confirmation that it does very well in cold climates, so it is very conceivable that it could live outdoors during winter in New York. That is in addition to its being well suited to live indoors alongside the species that already are here.”

The researchers suspect that the newcomers, a species already well-documented in Asia, may have arrived courtesy of the soil accompanying some of the ornamental plants used to landscape the park.

“Many nurseries in the United States have some native plants and some imported plants,” Ware said, “so it's not a far stretch to picture that that is the source.”

Fortunately, the Rutgers team say that there is probably not a huge cause for concern over a massive invasion by the skittering critters.

“Because this species is very similar to cockroach species that already exist in the urban environment,” said Evangelista, “they likely will compete with each other for space and for food.” And as they compete, said Ware, “their combined numbers inside buildings could actually fall because more time and energy spent competing means less time and energy to devote to reproduction.”  

As for the idea of encountering inch-long cockroaches scampering about New York’s wintry streets, the researchers say that it is indeed possible.

“I could imagine japonica being outside and walking around,” says Ware, “though I don’t know how well it would do in dirty New York snow. The Asian researchers tested driven snow.”   

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