10/08/2013 12:06 pm ET

Cockroaches Have Neighborhoods, And They're Not Leaving Soon, Study Finds


If you live on the Upper East Side, you hate taking the subway. That's true for humans and the cockroaches that live in their tony apartments.

An ongoing study called the National Cockroach Project finds that cockroaches in certain city neighborhoods share the same genetic makeup -- and they differ from roaches in their neighboring hoods.

"In the New York City neighborhoods where we've looked in detail—the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, and Roosevelt Island—the genetic types are quite different," Mark Stoeckle, an infectious-disease specialist and researcher for the project, told National Geographic.

"The diversity was a surprise to us, and the fact that they're not just all mixed together—it's not a random assortment."

He added, "They must be staying close to home, and they have their own neighborhoods."

He says the genetic diversity -- and roaches' tendency to stay put -- shows us there's a lot more diversity in cockroaches than we may realize.

The project allows New Yorkers to submit dead cockroach specimens in a process called barcoding. Researchers analyze the dead roach's DNA and cross reference that data with its location information. The result has become a family tree of roaches, and it proves that there's a whole lot less gentrification going on among roaches than in the human world.

Stoeckle tells NPR that they're all immigrants, too, much like New Yorkers. They're not going anywhere anytime soon, either. Listen to that interview:


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