Can cockroaches survive a nuclear bomb?

Image by Vicki Nunn from Pixabay

In 1945 as the Second World War neared its end, two atomic bombs, the likes of which the world had never seen, were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When the carnage was later dissected, legend tells that the sole survivor was a tiny insect known as a cockroach.

Subsequently, tests were carried out on the insects to see if their radiation defences were as tough as first thought. The two bombs dropped at the end of the war had a strength of around 10,000 radon units. When exposed to this level during the experiment, the roaches, as predicted, survived. When the dose was upped to 100,000, none survived. We can ‘only’ withstand 800 radon units.

The science behind the ‘roaches hardy ability is that they have extremely simple and slow cell cycles which the radiation finds difficult to affect. Cells are at their weakest to radiation when they are dividing and as this happens much less frequently in cockroaches, they have a higher tolerance.

Cockroaches are invincible to a nuclear bomb then? Well not quite. The invertebrates would be disintegrated in the explosion and would fry in the heat of the blast. Additionally, the strength of current nuclear warheads is much stronger than the 1945 bombs so they would be tested much more in present day conditions.

So, all that stuff about cockroaches ruling the Earth after the nuclear apocalypse? Yeah it’s kinda true…

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