You may have fond memories of your childhood friend Hammy the Hamster, but researchers in France have identified populations of these furry little rodents that will haunt your nightmares.
While studying the effect of diet on reproduction, the scientists discovered babies born to mother hamsters living exclusively on corn only had a 5 percent chance of making it as far as weaning. The scary thing is the reason for this.
Mommy hamsters are taking their newborns and storing them up in their corn stores ready to eat later. Even worse, those helpless little infants are still alive when they are buried among the maize. Later on, when she is feeling peckish, mom comes back and snacks on a few kernels of corn and one of her squirming, warm, tasty little babies.
Some of these mommies were taken to the lab for further study, and these cannibal child-eaters displayed other strange behaviours. When researchers walked into the room, the female hamsters would pace aggressively in circles, bang on their feeders, and other dementia-like behaviours. Also, these furry mommas had blood so thick it is hard to draw for testing and huge black swollen tounges.
It turns out the reason for this rampant cannibalism in hamsters was relatively straightforward, a vitamin deficiency. In humans, vitamin B3 deficiency can lead to a condition called pellagra. This condition has been linked to an increased risk of homicide, suicide, even cannibalism and it has been suggested that pellagra was the cause of the mass hysteria that led to the Salem Witch Trials.
When the crazed rodents were given a diet enriched with vitamins the horrific baby munching symptoms were cured, but scientists are concerned the large-scale mono-agriculture that is becoming routine across the world, is not only destroying the habitats of hamsters and other wildlife but will cause further vitamin deficiency caused problems.
Featured Image Via Pets Corner.