AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

This Blog Post is Rated R for Cannibalism

How many Bones fans are out there? For the dedicated few who know, the telivision show Bones took a major plot turn in it’s third season. Basically, Zach, the endearing, yet oddly intelligent forensic anthropologist admitted to killing a man so that another man could eat him! Wow is right! Cannibalism is a disgusting yet intriguing topic that not only appears throughout history, but in modern day books, shows, and movies. Now, scientists are saying, the trend may also be increasingly taking place in different animal groups.

Everyone’s first reaction to cannibalism is ew! But are there certain valid ecological reasons why some animals eat their own kind? In this article, these scientists and researchers say yes. Certain animals, such as cane toads, Caecilians, and Tamarin monkeys, have recently been showing cannabilistic behaviors.

Cane tadpoles have been sighted feeding on similar Cane toad eggs,

Photo Credit: Doug Greenburg

even when given the choice to eat other types of eggs. The researchers defend this behavior by proposing these reasons: “The practice speeds up maturation; it eliminates future rivals who, given a mother toad’s reproductive cycle, are almost certainly unrelated to you; and it means exploiting an abundant resource that others find toxic but to which you are immune.” Regardless if the behavior is validated, the cannibalism is shocking researchers and scientists, prompting them to even come up with a name for this increasing behavior in animals: “extreme or uncanny cannibalism”.

The cannibalism, unfortunatly, doesn’t stop there. The article goes on

Photo Credit: Scott Kinmartin

to talk about a certain kind of Black Widow spiders whose males have been studied to sacrifice themselves to their mate. This particular cannibalism in these particular spiders is perhaps too disgusting to explain here, but basically the male donates his gametes to the female spider, in order to ensure that he can help father many, many more spiders in the future.

Let’s move on from spiders shall we? I mean cannibalism is already bad, but add in creepy spiders and Halloween and

Photo Credit: teague_o

you’re just setting your self up for nightmares. The next animal that has cannabilistic factors are the caecillians. Caecilians are limbless amphibians, whose mother’s feed themselves to their young. In another astonishing, gross manner, that I will not go into in great detail, the mother Caecilian goes through skin changes soon after giving birth that allows her young to feed on her skin in order to stay alive.

Photo Credit: momopeche

The mother, needless to say, dies.

The last animal I will talk about today is the Tamarin monkeys. The article paints a picture of the kind of cannibalism found among these seemingly innocent monkeys.”A mother tamarin holding her infant son was foraging for fruit with her adult daughter. One moment the charming tableau looked fine, baby monkey clinging adorably to mother’s fur. The next, the researchers watched as the mother bit through the baby’s skull and ate out its brain.” I doubt anyone reading this article will ever look at monkeys the same, but keep this in mind. The adult daughter was pregnant, meaning that if the already born baby monkey was to live, the daughter’s baby would be doomed, due to the raising of a Tamarin monkey being a group affair. It is unknown why one baby was better than the other, however it can be reasoned that the mother Tamarin was, by eating its own child, making a pact with her adult daughter that they would care for the next baby together.

Okay, if anyone is still reading up to this point, props to you. Truly, you seem to have no problem reading gruesome stories about disgusting animal cannabilistic tendencies. However, I do not wish to ask you, person who does not mind reading about this cannabilism, whether you think cannabilism is a valid life choice, because truthfully I do not wish to know your answer. Instead I will ask whether you have heard of any other seemingly innocent animals that have turned to cannibalism. Are their actions validated by ecology? Alright, off you go now. Go read about happy animals, or better yet, unicorns. Happy, non cannibalistic, unicorns.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Ever wondered why your GPS speaks in a female voice?


Make Sure You Are Getting the Full Health Benefits When You Eat Your Vegetables


  1. nicleus2

    I found this post much more interesting than disgusting. In fact, it prompted me to do some further research on cannibalistic animals, and I found an article about a cannibalistic crocodile. And no, this croc isn’t eating its young; both crocs are huge! The prey is only slightly smaller than the predator. You should check it out!

  2. jackalantern926

    This is absolutely disgusting. However, did you know that praying mantis are also cannibalistic? I did some research, and found out that male praying mantis are common victims of sexual cannibalism. This means that after a male and female praying mantis mate, the female mantis tends to rip off the male’s head and eat it. It’s quite strange, to say the least. In fact, the New York Times published an article about this back in 2006, listing even more cannibalistic insects. One theory they presented is that the female praying mantis accidentaly confuses the male for prey, and doesn’t mean to be a cannibal. This is unlikely however because… I’m sure it’s pretty obvious to the female that she is killing the male she just mated with.

  3. sweetasglucose

    This is by far the most disgusting thing I have read in a LONG time. I have a horrible image of a monkey biting through another monkey’s skull and it is ghastly. Whether or not the monkey was going to die, that is disgusting and gruesome. However, your article got me thinking “Is it beneficial to eat humans?” According to an article on Discovery News the world’s first cannibals ate humans for nutrients. Don’t worry Steven Vogel at Duke University calculated that “we’d have to consume too many of our brethren for cannibalism to be a sustainable nutritional source in and of itself.”
    Anyway check out this website if you want to learn more about eating people. 🙂

  4. gababoutbio

    Wow, I am truly disgusted but yet intrigued at the same time! I decided to research a few more cannibalistic animals and I came across the short- tailed cricket. Did you know the short-tailed cricket is not just a cannibal but rather a self-cannibal. Self-cannibalism means the animal eats a part of themselves. In this particular case the cricket eats its wings. EW! hahah

    For more bizarre self-cannibals visit

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Skip to toolbar