Cockroaches are generally omnivorous feeding on a great variety of foodstuffs including bread, fruit, leather, starch in book bindings, paper, glue, skin flakes, hair, dead insects and soiled clothing. Many species of cockroach harbor symbiotic protozoans and bacteria in their gut which are able to digest cellulose. In many species, these symbiotic may be essential if the insect is to utilize cellulose, however some species secrete cellulase in their saliva, and the wood-eating cockroach, Panesthia cribrata, is able to survive indefinitely on a diet of crystallized cellulose while being free of micro-organisms.
The similarity of these symbiotic in the genus Cryptocercus to those in termites are such that these cockroaches have been suggested to be more closely related to termites than to other cockroaches, and current research strongly supports this hypothesis about their relationships.
All species studied so far carry the obligate mutualistic endosymbiont bacterium Blattabacterium, with the exception of Nocticola australiensise, an Australian cave-dwelling species without eyes, pigment or wings, which recent genetic studies indicate is a very primitive cockroach. It had previously been thought that all five families of cockroach were descended from a common ancestor that was infected with B. cuenoti. It may be that N. australiensise subsequently lost its symbionts, or alternatively this hypothesis will need to be re-examined.
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