MAR 22, 2017 07:42 AM PDT

Don't eat me, Mom!

3 10 765

Chances are you've never felt threatened that your mom might just gobble you up one day - at least not in the literal sense of the word. But if you're a hamster baby, piglet, snake offspring, fish baby, insect toddler, or even primate kiddie, you should watch your back. Eating one's young may seem like the exact 180 of a good survival gene, but the fact that such cannibalism is seen throughout the animal kingdom means it must have some sort of sense, at least biologically speaking!

And in fact it does. This technique can act as a "crop control" method that lowers the number of offspring that a mother who gives birth to a large litter must take care of. A hamster mom isn't about to eat all of her babies, because that would leave her several steps backward in the gene-passing life goal. But eliminating several offspring (usually two out of a litter of eight) allows her to concentrate more resources into the other babies, giving them a higher chance of survival. And by eating them, she too gains important nutrients that can be passed onto her alive children.

Other animals use this method for different reasons. For example, the male sand guppy occasionally eats his "slow-poke" young - aka the eggs that don't hatch on time with the others. He can't be held up waiting to mate again with a new female just because five of his five hundred eggs are lagging, so down the hatch they go. And the long-tailed sun skink may eat her eggs when it is inevitable that they are about to be eaten by a predator; after all, she might as well receive that energy instead of her rival because it will help her prepare for a new round of reproduction. So as backwards as it seems, these animals know what they're doing when they down their babies as an afternoon snack.
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
JUL 03, 2018
Videos
JUL 03, 2018
Watch Out for These Keto Side Effects
The Keto diet is very popular with people who want to cut carbs and lose weight, but it’s not without its drawbacks. While the diet’s purpose i
JUL 15, 2018
Videos
JUL 15, 2018
Can Animals Appreciate Music?
  Our appreciation of rhyme and rhythm might not be unique. Animals may also be music lovers. Using music studies done on crocodiles, the researchers
JUL 15, 2018
Videos
JUL 15, 2018
New Details on The Iceman's Diet
Researchers can look at isotopes in hair and bone samples to see whether people were vegetarians or omnivores. They can also see investigate resides left i
JUL 24, 2018
Videos
JUL 24, 2018
Measles are on the Move
Measles is a highly contagious disease that used to be common in young children. Due to the development of vaccines, however, it’s been almost eradic
AUG 02, 2018
Videos
AUG 02, 2018
Which is More Damaging to Your Health, Alcohol or Weed?
Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the federal government, making it a challenger for scientists to conduct further studies and gather stat
AUG 10, 2018
Videos
AUG 10, 2018
Cannabis Compounds Used as Anti-Cancer Agent
The video below sites several studies done on cannabinoids and how they can be used as an anti-cancer agent. Cannabinoids have multiple properties tha
Loading Comments...