- Some animals partake in cannibalistic behaviour; typically this involves infanticide.
- Pigs and African pygmy hedgehogs are examples of creatures that sometimes cannibalise their young.
- Ladybugs are also cannibalistic insects.
Although cannibalism isn’t exactly sustainable for most species, some species occasionally engage in cannibalistic behaviour. This cannibalistic behaviour in animals can be attributed to environmental causes, overcrowding, or even basic survival instincts.
And, there might be more species who engage in it than you’d think. There are plenty of cannibalistic species hiding in plain sight and a few might even be in your home.
Here are 10 animals that engage in cannibalistic behaviour.
Prairie dogs are generally vegetarian, but they can engage in cannibal behaviour.
Prairie dogs, though vegetarian, have been known to kill Wyoming ground squirrels that rely on the same grass for food.
Some female prairie dogs cannibalise the young of their relatives, according to National Geographic, which researchers hypothesize is attributed to natural selection since it likely increases the chances of survival for their own offspring.
Hamsters can be cannibals, too.
Hamsters have been known to cannibalise each other, but this phenomenon seems to occur as a result of a restricted diet. According to Gizmodo, switching hamsters to an all-corn diet instead of a more varied one that includes grains, roots, and insects can cause the mothers to eat their young.
Pigs are known to commit infanticide.
Also known as “savaging,” cannibalism among pigs is associated with sows.
Piglet savaging often occurs with a pig’s first litter.
Hedgehogs eat their own babies sometimes as well.
They might be a popular pet on social media, but African pygmy hedgehogs are known to cannibalise their young if the mothers get frightened.
In order to prevent litters of newborn hedgehogs from being eaten, some veterinarians recommend keeping hedgehog mothers separated from other hedgehogs and people prior to and after birth.
Occasionally, rabbits engage in cannibalistic behaviour.
Rabbits don’t engage in cannibalistic behaviour often, but it can happen among female rabbits that have just given birth.
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Ladybugs are cannibalistic insects.
Ladybugs, also known as ladybirds in the UK, are recognisable thanks to their red colouring and unique spots. But this beetle has a dark, cannibalistic secret.
The larvae of several varieties of ladybugs, including two-spot ladybugs, eat ladybug eggs that have yet to hatch (their own siblings), reported the BBC.
Research has shown that ladybug larvae who eat their unhatched family members develop faster than non-cannibal larvae.
Ducklings can engage in cannibalistic behaviours when they’re bored.
Ducklings over a month old are most likely to exhibit this tendency.
Ducklings are said to exhibit cannibalistic behaviour when they are bored or aggravated by overcrowding, a lack of ventilation, or poor nutrition.
Cannibalistic chickens aren’t uncommon.
Chickens have a social hierarchy – it’s literally a pecking order – yet chicken cannibalism is not an uncommon occurrence. Chickens have been known to peck, tear, and even consume the skin, tissue, and organs of others in a flock.
Although cannibalism among chickens (and other types of poultry) is more common in certain breeds, the aggressive behaviour can also be limited and controlled via preventative measures. These include giving chickens plenty of space to avoid overcrowding, making sure water and food resources are available, and giving chickens a way to avoid too much sunlight. (Chickens should get a maximum 16 hours of light, artificial or otherwise, per day.)
As cannibalism is a learned behaviour for chickens, it can spread through a flock.
Cannibalistic tiger salamanders have special physical features.
Cannibalistic members of this breed have been found to have bigger skulls than their non-cannibal counterparts.
They also typically have enlarged teeth. These morphed salamanders have been found to eat smaller members of their species every now and again, all in the name of eliminating competition for valuable resources.
Researchers have found that cannibalism in this species seems to happen most frequently in areas with a high density of the salamanders.
North American red squirrels commit infanticide.
Male red squirrels commit infanticide and cannibalism. The pups are often killed and eaten by nearby male squirrels who are typically not the father.
Interestingly, the infanticide occurs most often when food has been plentiful.
According to National Geographic, that’s because female squirrels are more likely to have a second litter in years when more food is available. Since female squirrels have multiple mating partners before the first round of breeding, killing that initial litter allows a male to ensure the second litter will be only his.
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