Here’s a pocket monster that you probably wouldn’t want to catch. Scientists say they’ve confirmed the existence of a previously unknown cockroach species found in Singapore—a species they then decided to name after an otherworldly Pokémon that more than bears a passing resemblance to it. The real-life Pokémon is called Nocticola pheromosa.
According to local media outlet The Strait Times, the roach was actually first found in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve near the center of Singapore years earlier, when bug scientists collected several male specimens between 2016 and 2017. These specimens were preserved at the National University of Singapore Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. DNA testing of the roach didn’t match any other species documented online, suggesting that it could have been a new find, but it did resemble other roaches externally.
Study author Cristian Lucanas, an entomologist from the UPLB Museum of Natural History in the Philippines, came across pictures of the roach on a reference website of local wildlife, hosted by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. He then reached out to Foo Maosheng, a scientific officer at the museum, and offered his help. The pair’s subsequent work—which included Lucanas dissecting the roach—appears to have established that it is different from its relatives and deserving of a new species name. Their research was published late last month in the Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology.
The namesake Pokémon Pheromosa first appeared in the 7th generation games Pokémon Sun and Moon. Pheromosa is a Bug/Fighting type Pokémon, though it’s more than just that. It’s an “Ultra Beast”—extradimensional Pokémon that are part of those games’ unique conceit. And it’s not hard to see why the pair decided to name their discovery after the Pokémon.
“There are some similarities between Pheromosa and the delicate cockroach that we found, such as having a long antenna, wings that mimic a hood and long slender legs,” Maosheng told The Strait Times. “Both my collaborator and I are Pokémon fans, so we thought, why not name it after a Pokémon inspired by a cockroach.”
N. pheromosa is far from the first real-life animal named for a Pokémon, and bug scientists seem especially drawn to doing so. In 2021, a group named a trio of rarely encountered beetles in Australia after Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres—three “legendary” bird Pokémon that debuted in the first games. Bees, wasps, and other non-bug animals have also been named after Pokémon, usually from the earlier games that more people would be familiar with.
The roach itself does appear to be a pretty notable discovery. It’s the first Nocticola species local to Singapore ever documented, though its full range isn’t yet known. Like most roaches, it’s not a human pest, and the authors actually describe it as a “delicate” species. Roaches in general, including those living in forested areas, are an important part of the environment, though the reputation of their home-infesting brethren can make that hard to acknowledge, the authors note.
“Cockroaches do have a role but because of negative connotations and their appearance, they tend to be overlooked even during insect surveys,” Maosheng said.