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This Diet Turns Hamsters Into Cannibals

Jan 30, 2017 08:18 AM EST
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In France, hamsters are turning into cannibals.

According to the researchers who published their findings last week in the British Royal Society journal Proceedings B, a diet of corn is turning wild hamsters in north-eastern France into mad cannibals that devour their offspring.

Over the years, the population of European hamster (Cricetus cricetus) has seen a decline. The researchers wanted to find the reason behind this decline. They initially hypothesized that it is because of pesticides and industrial ploughing. But as the researchers examined the hamsters' diet, they have found out that it is because of industrial farming of corn.

The wild hamsters used to eat a variety of grains, roots and insects, but due to their collapsing habitat, wild hamsters now live in fields of semi-sterile industrially grown corn, which they tend to eat. As explained by The Guardian, the monotonous diet, which is lacking in vitamins, specifically B3, or niacin, is leaving the animals starving. This pushes the adult hamsters to feed on their infantile.

The researchers also looked whether this lack of nutrition affects their ability to produce offsprings. Sky News said the researchers subjected hamsters on a wheat diet and hamsters on a corn diet in a blood test and they found out that both of them produce offspring at a normal rate. Bit what surprised them is the rate of survival of their offsprings.

About 80 percent of the babies whose mothers had a varied diet were weaned, but only 5 percent of the offspring of the females fed corn made it to that stage. The rest is eaten, the report said.

Researchers said, "Females stored their pups with their hoards of maize before eating them. Pups were still alive at that time."

In addition, they also observed that the tongue of the hamsters who turned into cannibal has become color black. They also have hair deficiency and a lot of rashes.

The Independent notes that once the hamsters were given a substantial amount of vitamin B3, they stopped eating their infantile and started to have healthy hair and skin. Cricetus cricetus is critically endangered in western Europe.

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