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New cockroach resistant to cold is found in Manhattan. Oh, joy!

The Periplaneta japonica -- a male, left, and female are shown here -- is a new species of cockroach recently found in the U.S. that can withstand harsh winter cold.
(University of Florida / AP)

From the city that never sleeps, just in time for winter holiday season comes the perfect gift for the person who has everything -- a species of cockroach that has just appeared in New York and -- oh, joy! -- can withstand harsh cold.

Finding a new cockroach in New York is a bit like bringing coals to Newcastle or trying to out-twerk Miley Cyrus. After all, it is not like there is a shortage of cockroaches in New York, or, indeed, in any urban or suburban area.

Though it is has never been an official contestant on “Survivor,” the insect is affectionately known for its hardiness and its well-earned reputation for an ability to live in the worst of conditions, including scant food or even no air for a time. It is said that if humanity succeeds in destroying itself in a nuclear holocaust, the roaches will manage to carry on -- though, to be fair, there is little empirical evidence for that.

But there is observational evidence for the hardiness of the roach species, Periplaneta japonica, which is well entrenched in Asia but whose presence has never been confirmed in the United States -- until now.

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In a paper for the Journal of Economic Entomology, Rutgers University insect biologists Jessica Ware and Dominic Evangelista write of confirming the presence of the Asian cockroach, first spotted in 2012 by an exterminator working on the High Line, Manhattan’s magnificent urban park, that reclaimed the former elevated spur of the New York Central Railroad on the West Side.

The exterminator sent the body to the University of Florida for analysis. Eventually, it worked its way to Ware’s lab, where, after genetic and other tests, the Asian species was confirmed.

It is not clear how the Periplaneta japonica made its way to New York. The culprit is believed to have been in the soil from one of the ornamental plants brought in for the High Line.

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

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While it is too soon to predict the implications of its arrival, the Rutgers researchers argue there is little reason for alarm.

“Because this species is very similar to cockroach species that already exist in the urban environment, they likely will compete with each other for space and for food,” Evangelista stated.

Periplaneta japonica has been proved to survive outdoors in the freezing cold and even in some snow conditions. But, the special pungency of New York snow could pose a challenge.

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

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