Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Hi, this is Emily from MinuteEarth.

  • Sometimes, a hamster mom looks at her adorable little babies and is like, 'I just want to

  • gobble you up'—except not in a cute way...more in an “I'M ACTUALLY ABOUT TO EAT YOU

  • way.

  • Hamster moms are not alonepigs, bugs, birds, snakes, primates, and fish all occasionally

  • nom on the next generation.

  • Which is weird.

  • Not just because we humans consider it deeply wrong to eat our own babies, but also because

  • making babies is the primary goal of virtually all life, so eating them, and the genes they

  • carry, seems like the ultimate act of self defeat.

  • But self-defeating impulses have a pretty straightforward way of dying out, so the fact

  • that species across the animal kingdom occasionally cannibalize their young suggests that it can

  • sometimes be a successful strategy.

  • For instance, hamsters appear to use baby-eating as a form of crowd control: females with litters

  • of 8 or 9 pups eat two of them, on average.

  • And when scientists have tried adding a couple pups to the litter, the hamster moms eat four.

  • But removing a few pups the day they're born pretty much stops the cannibalism before

  • it startssuggesting that a hamster mom eats her young to keep her litter small enough

  • that she can provide for the survivors and ensure they grow up to pass on their genes.

  • Other critters, like the Long-tailed Sun Skink, chow down on their babies only in emergencies.

  • When predators repeatedly threaten to eat the mother's eggs, she beats them to it

  • and eats them all herself.

  • Which actually makes sense: if the eggs are doomed to become someone's lunch, making them

  • HER lunch helps prepare the mama skink for another round of reproduction.

  • And sometimes, kids, you know, get in the way, so they just have to go.

  • The male sand goby fertilizes eggs from multiple females over a short period of time and cares

  • for them all together in one nest.

  • In order to mate again, he has to wait for all his eggs to hatch, so he sacrifices the

  • slowpokes to free himself up for more baby-making.

  • In short, for critters across the animal kingdom to maximize the resources, energy and opportunities

  • they need to pass on their genes, sometimes it does make sense to order off of the kid's

  • menu.

  • This video was sponsored by, the leading provider of audiobooks, with over

  • 250,000 downloadable titles.

  • Annnd, on the topic of eating one's own kind, maybe you'll want to check out Audible's

  • audiobook version ofMiracle in the Andes,” the harrowing first-person account of a high-altitude

  • plane crash in the mountains of Peru, and the 72-day-long struggle for survival that

  • followed.

  • DownloadMiracle in the Andes,” or another book of your choice for free, by going to

  • and signing up for a 30-day trial membership.

  • And thanks for watching!

Hi, this is Emily from MinuteEarth.

Subtitles and vocabulary

Click the word to look it up Click the word to find further inforamtion about it