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Nature’s Meanest Mommies

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Nature’s Meanest Mommies

Yesterday we showed the love to some of nature’s warm and fuzzy mothers, today it’s a trip straight to the dark side: nature’s meanest mommies. You thought Joan Crawford was bad? “No wire hangers” is nothing compared to the schemes some mothers in the animal kingdom have devised. With plot lines that make Shakespeare’s most sadistic seem sweet, many a mom in nature resort to abandonment, infanticide (often by eating their young, nice), adultery, and murder. That’s a bad mommy. Although to be fair, they really don’t know any better–these are all behaviors developed through evolution to ensure the longevity of the species. It’s a matter of species survival trumping maternal instinct. Still, cannibalism? I think I’m grateful I’m not the runt of a hamster litter–or better yet, a hamster mom…

So in celebration of Mother’s Day and all the lovely things our mothers have done for us–like, not eating us–here’s a rogues’ gallery of some of nature’s seemingly most sinister matriarchs.

Hamsters are darling–furry, cute, cuddly…and notorious baby-eaters. Yikes. According to the all-things-hamster site, first-time hamster moms may be so shocked by the whole situation that they feel threatened by the new arrivals and simply eat them to remove the threat. Now that’s a novel solution. Also, first time mothers can produce pups that are undersized or abnormal, thus causing the mother to reject and possibly eat them–or the mother may be craving extra nutrients after giving birth, and if they aren’t provided any other way she’ll snack on her young.

If infant hamsters are handled by humans before they reach two weeks of age, the mother may reject the pup, causing her to ignore or…yes, eat them. It’s also believed that this behavior has to do with making sure there’s enough food around to feed the number of pups born. A larger litter than is manageable is often born–but then the mother needs to decrease the litter size to ensure there will be enough food for the the rest.

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Read more: Cute Pet Photos, Nature & Wildlife, Other Holidays, Pets

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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5:21PM PDT on Jul 22, 2014

noted, but also wonder how many offspring would survive if they weren't this way.

8:26AM PDT on Mar 31, 2013

interestingto see how nature goes for the stronger to preserve teh species even if it's at the cost of actual lives....yet then you find animals from different species that adopt one another or befriend one another

9:13PM PDT on Mar 27, 2012

Auuuugh. Not exactly a feel good article, but fascinating!

2:13AM PST on Jan 28, 2012

Oh my, and most of them looked so cute and sweet--I guess that's REALLY nature in the raw!!

10:36AM PST on Jan 26, 2012

Thanks for introducing us to the Joan Crawfords of the animal world.

10:34AM PDT on Sep 25, 2011

o.m.g. T-T

10:36PM PDT on Aug 26, 2011

i swear i thought humans were going to be somewhere on the list...

8:41AM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

Proving once again that people are NOT animals. Animals do not know good and evil only man. (but kill offspring for the next new male? Sounds like America today. Isn't that what Oboma is doing? Killing our freedom na dthose who support it to bring in his 'offspring'?)

7:09PM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

I can't imagine a hamster being much meaner than nibbling on my fingers!

11:13AM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

Very interesting and wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing.

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Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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