In crowded laboratory conditions, fruit fly larvae - maggots - have been observed cannibalizing one another.
The researchers from University of Lausanne, Switzerland, report that because the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is so well-studied, the observations will lead to better understanding the biological secrets of cannibalism.
Researchers say the maggots will pursue, attack and eat one another.
As grim as it may sound, cannibalism is present throughout the animal kingdom. A recent report shows that some sharks cannibalize their siblings while still in the womb, some migratory crickets and locusts will eat their own to survive long journeys and even big cats have been known to eat the offspring of rivals to eliminate competition.
Cannibal fruit flies are confusing, however, because the tiny insects are vegetarian.
"Presumably they're poorly equipped to hunt other animals, including their own species, so it's an evolutionary question as to why cannibalism still exists among non-carnivorous animals," said lead researcher Roshan Vijendravarma, according to a BBC report.
There also appeared to be a chemical element to the cannibalism. Once a larva had injured its victim, others were attracted by the injury and joined in on the feeding.
Vijendravarma's description of the feeding is not far removed from a scene in a zombie film.
"The cannibal uses the mouth hooks to rasp across the victims' flesh and then rips it open," he said.
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