The Virtual Roach © 2003 Dr. Joseph V. McHugh and Gene N. Wright
VIRTUAL ROACH BACKGROUND
The Virtual Roach is a web resource focused on insect anatomy that was developed as a technical reference and an instructional tool. The interface for the system links morphological terms with an extensive image archive, including scientific illustrations, scanning electron micrographs, and photomicrographs. Images are linked in a manner permitting a detailed examination and virtual dissection of the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana).
Using the Virtual Roach for Instruction
Insects are a major component of every non-marine ecosystem on earth, placing Entomology at the core of agricultural, environmental and life science curricula. Morphology is perhaps the most fundamental element of entomological studies because a basic knowledge of anatomy is a logical prerequisite to studies of taxonomy, physiology, behavior and biology. Unfortunately, this important subject is difficult to teach in a stimulating manner. The nature of morphological study requires exposure to a vast number of new structures and terms. The typical instructional material used for this subject consists of reproductions of illustrations from a few classic texts (e.g., Snodgrass, 1935) and laboratory dissections.
Though illustrations from the basic literature are often technically superb, they are monochromatic, flat and not particularly engaging. It is difficult to provide dynamic instruction using only this material for visuals. Dissections are far more stimulating, but require considerable time, supplies and an appropriately equipped teaching laboratory. It is impractical to use actual dissections in lectures because they are too clumsy to present in a smooth presentation. In some educational situations, dissections are simply not possible due to limitations of time, equipment or proper facilities.
The Virtual Roach can function as a freestanding technical reference, an autotutorial module, an interactive bench-top guide, a pre-lab introduction or a post-lab review tool. Because the extensive collection of colorful images and text is also available for quick reference from an index of direct links, the program can serve as a powerful visual aid to augment lecture-format instruction as well.
Why Use a Cockroach?
The American cockroach, Periplaneta americana (Linnaeus), is an ideal subject for the study of insect anatomy. It is a familiar insect to the public and has been studied extensively by the scientific community. Because the anatomy of roaches and closely related orthopteroid taxa has been well studied, basic literature is available, greatly reducing the time required to interpret structures. Blattid anatomy represents a relatively generalized insectan form in many regards (Snodgrass, 1935); therefore, students will be able to identify and homologize the anatomy of other taxa more easily. The American cockroach is also a perfect species for complementary laboratory instruction due to its large size, relatively thin cuticle and availability. Teachers can easily collect and rear P. americana or purchase specimens from biological supply companies which provide an inexpensive and dependable source of living stock and preserved material.