Friday, December 12, 2008

Cannibalism of own Entire Offspring

It has been researched that many animals (especially fish) engage in filial cannibalism (the process of eating one’s own offspring). It is very rare to find an organism that has evolved this extraordinary cannibalistic trait. However, researchers have discovered that the long-tailed skink, Mabuya longicaudata, will eat their own entire clutch known as whole-clutch filial cannibalism in the presence of predators. It has been observed that at high frequency intrusions of an egg-eating snake the female skink will consume their entire offspring. Other factors are taken into consideration. If the female is in an unhealthy state, consuming their offspring to gain energy will be more beneficial for themselves so they can reproduce again later on when they are in a better state. It is a trade-off whether or not it is better to save the offspring or more beneficial to consume their offspring to increase the chances of her survival and increase the chances of reproduction in the future. Researchers observed that if many of the female eggs have been eaten by the egg-eating snakes then the female does not want to waste time and energy to protect and care for such few offspring. This is when the cost of parental care outweighs the benefit of caring for their young. Therefore, instead of putting energy into the few offspring she will consume them for energy and try to successfully reproduce again. Very little is known about this cannibalistic behavior in animals (especially in reptiles) and is an ongoing study that researchers are gathering information about to better understand the costs and benefits of parental care and how organisms go about making these decisions that they have successfully evolved from overtime.

You can read more about this article here.

-Carlos A. Varela (Week 12)

20 Comments:

At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you mean by high frequency intrusions? Is whole-clutch filial cannibalism an immediate response to the presence of predators or is there a wait period?

SUSAN DUONG

 
At 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Intriguing. Who would of thought parents would eat their own offspring. In the case of the long tailed skink, it makes sense for something like that to occur. Did the article mention if the snake is off threat to her well being? Would the female be able to battle the skink, if she was healthy, and win? Interesting. It would make sense that the eggs would give her the extra energy needed to get safe.

Katie Cole

 
At 2:28 AM, Anonymous Allison Cornell said...

Gee, only reptiles would be that cold-blooded! :) On a more serious note, I understand the energy benefits of eating the eggs, but wouldn't the mother skink be putting herself at a greater risk by taking the time to consume her young before escaping the predator? Does the mother eat the offspring only as eggs or after they are hatched, as well?

~Allison Cornell (12)

 
At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very interesting, it would seems like there would be little benefit to eating their own young, but it does make sense that the time spent to raise a few young would be a waste if times were hard. Though i didint quite understand the part about when they do it more frequently if predators are around. is this when a predator is present or when a predator has taken some young?

Erica Damon

 
At 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, this is really surprising! You mentioned that the cost of raising only a few offspring outweighs the benefit, but this still seems incredibly odd to me.

Cecelia Hunt

 
At 1:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really liked this article and how it relates to our recent lectures of looking into the cost and benefits of animal behavior. It does make sense that instead of taking care of few of the young she eats them for energy so that she can reproduce more eggs (which takes a lot of resources). I wonder if the male is at all involved in parental care because if the male was also part of it maybe the few young could be taken care of and the young in general would be more protected, while the female could put her time and energy into reproducing her other eggs. Just a thought.

Tazneena Ishaque

 
At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very odd behavior, it doesn't seem to go with what we have been learning about how the highest measure of fitness is how many of your own offspring survive to reproduce themselves. This cannot be possible if you eat your own kids! Interesting article.

-Julie Riley

 
At 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can see how these mothers might eat their offspring if there health is in jeapordy. If there health was so bad in the first place, they shouldn't have mated!

Mia DiFabbio

 
At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mentioned that the female will eat the whole clutch if there's intruder, but then you said that once the predator consumes the majority of her offspring, then she will eat what's left to gain energy. So the female eats her offspring once she sees the predator or after the attack? Anyway this cannibalistic behavior sounds horrifying.

Hanbing Guo

 
At 4:36 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This a a very interesting topic. It is odd that the female will eat her own eggs when in the presence of a predator. Does she do this because she knows they will die and it is more beneficial to eat her eggs than to let them be eaten? How often does the female produce eggs?

Rob Lubenow

 
At 5:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very interesting, however i was wondering why the snakes would put the energy into making the offspring if they could not put the energy into raising their young?

Amanda Joyce

 
At 6:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoa! Thats great! Imagine if this occurred in mammals? Anyway, I was wondering if you knew any other animals that also display whole-clutch filial cannibalism? You mention fish and reptiles, but can you name a few? I'm curious to know if pet goldfish or other pet fish could exhibit the same behavior. Also, where is the male in this whole picture? Is it only the female that eats the eggs? (I'm assuming that the males provide no parental care in this system). Thank you for this really cool post!

-Amanda Sceusa (11)

 
At 7:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so interesting! Why would the female even mate if she knew that the time was not right, and she would end up eating her offspring anyways? Wouldn't the male stay to defend the female so his offspring survive? This is very strange, but it makes perfect sense because there is no point in leaving your offspring to be eaten so why not eat them for your own benefit. Strange, but makes sense in this situation...

Alyson Paige

 
At 8:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not 100% positive about this, but I think that some rodents will eat their offspring in certain situations as well. When a mother mouse is chewing off the umbilical cord of her young, sometimes the signal to stop chewing doesn't occur, and she keeps on going until she consumes the young. Again, I'm not 100% sure about this, but I seem to remember reading that the most likely reason for the cannabalism in this case is that the female recieves some kind of signal that the offspring is unhealthy and unlikely to survive, so it makes more sense to gain energy by eating it so she can better care for her other young, then waste energy raising a pup that will die anyway.
-Corinne Delisle

 
At 10:10 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Wow I would have never guessed that mothers would eat their entire offspring. Does she eat it only when the predator has come after them or just whenever there is a predator present in general. If the snake already took some of them wouldn't it put the female more at risk if she tried to consume the rest of them instead of running away?

-Tara Quist

 
At 11:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interisting, I know we have studied about cannibalism between offspring and I know of cannibalism between snakes mom eating their own offspring’s but I don’t know if its in the presence of an predator. Though it make more sense here because if the female fish survives then she knows she can mate again and make another cultch rather then, assume or hope one of her offspring would survive.

Tenzing Y. Dundutsang

 
At 11:53 PM, Blogger PWH said...

cannabilism has been seen in other species, however the reasons arent entirely the same. Im a little curious as to how many reasons for cannibilism have been documented



Ahmed Sandakli

 
At 8:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow that is really interesting. It seems very counter-intuitive but the explanation makes sense. Are there any other things which will trigger this from of cannibalism? Also do you know of any other animals which exhibit this form of cannibalistic behavior?

-Alex Jackson

 
At 8:14 PM, Blogger PWH said...

it makes sense to eat the offsprings if it increases the chance of survival and being able to lay eggs later. do the males eat their offsprings too?

Hessom Minaei

 
At 3:01 PM, Anonymous Stephen Chiricosta said...

i am surprised at the level these reptiles acted. i cant believe the mother would eat there own offspring. this is a very different type of behavior and i am still confused at why they do it.

 

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