Thursday, February 7, 2008

Why Parents Eat Their Young, Especially the Big Ones

Kids taking too long to grow up? Just eat 'em.

When offspring don't move out from home, humans might gently encourage their children to leave, but sand goby fathers might devour them.

These new findings shed light on why parents might cannibalize their own young.

A wide range of animals gobbles their own kids — polar bears, burying beetles, hamsters, wolf spiders and a range of fish species. Such actions are puzzling, given all the time and energy that goes into producing offspring that are supposed to continue one's genetic legacy.

To further understand why such cannibalism might happen, scientists focused on the sand goby (Pomatoschistus minutus), a fish in which the males alone take care of the eggs.

"Overall, dad does a pretty good job of taking care of the eggs, except for one thing — he tends to eat about a third of them," said researcher Hope Klug, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Helsinki in Finland. "Based on previous work in this species, we know that the males aren't just doing this because they're hungry — even when they have excess food, they continue to eat a really large number of their own eggs."

Full Story

No comments: