8 Animals That Eat Their Young: What Nature Can Teach You About Parenthood.
Warning: It’s possible that SOME of the “research” in this article may not be entirely correct. All I remember is eating a bunch of chocolate and talking to a lot of random people. I’ve blocked most of it out. Also, I do NOT condone child-eating, unless they’re free-ranch, hormone-free, organic children. Just FYI.
For centuries, science has been looking to nature for answers about behavior. I mean, why else would humans eat bananas, unless they were going to monkeys for advice about what to make for dinner? Seriously, y’all. Bananas are gross.
As a mom, I really wanted to get some insight as to how animals raise their children, and I found a shocking statistic – almost 99% of animals eat their young. Actually, I heard that from a guy who hangs around my apartment’s dumpster and smells like feet. Pretty sure it’s true, though. (Thanks, Dirty Ernie!)
But, there are some that actually do eat their young, and for shocking reasons. Even though you and I are a highly evolved species that would never eat or harm our children, identifying similar situations could save your children the ignominy of being someone’s lunch.
1. Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs, or “Your Dinner is Not Poisonous.”
In several black-tailed prairie dog colonies, researchers have observed that these cute little critters spend much of their time sleeping and playing while their matriarchal leader finds and creates food for them to eat. After having spent most of her time and effort gathering delicious and nutritious foods, putting them on special plates, and carefully considering each one of her broods’ tolerances for new food, she will gather them to the dining area. Sometimes, the young black-tailed prairie dogs will immediately complain about how much they don’t like liver, or how they would rather eat hot pockets. Upon hearing this response, the mother simply nips the complaints in the butt. Literally.
2. Burying Beetles, or “What Did You Call Me?”
Although the burying beetle is a tolerant parent, there are some lines that just can’t be crossed. In the wild, it happens occasionally that an adolescent burying beetle gets into a heated argument with his or her parent about what time to come home to the dung heap, or whether they can take a member of the opposite sex to the seedy part of the savannah. The argument becomes deadly when the hot-headed teen calls their parents something idiotic, like a “dung-eating bug-face.” At which point, the parent responds by biting his or her head off.
3. Honey Bees, or “There’s One in Every Family.”
Sometimes, even the best honey bee hive can be afflicted with offspring that continually makes poor judgement calls. An aggressive disease, known as assholianism, affects nearly every hive. In this situation, honey bee offspring rebel against authority by hitting other bees, stealing their lunch money, and sometimes even peeing in the collective gymnasium bee shower. In addition, they pose a real threat to the hive as the disease spreads to younger bees who think their older sibling is “SOOOO COOOOL.” Honey bee moms and dads, in an effort to save the hive, sometimes just turn the wayward youth into a tasty and nutritious after-school snack, preferably on biscuits or toast.
4. Rabbits, or “ALWAYS. KNOCK. FIRST.”
No one knows copulation better than rabbits, so it’s no wonder that they’ll eat a child that gets in the way of their union. Still, a rabbit couple won’t usually turn to aggression unless there is good reason. My research (a 2-minute conversation with my drunk neighbor Sasha) says that rabbits often commit infanticide when a bunny has walked into a room that was mistakenly unlocked, and refuses to leave without knowing why someone hasn’t made them a snack. My sources also say that the most dangerous time for a baby rabbit is when it continues to knock on the door, talk through the keyhole, or put its little rabbit fingers underneath to wave “hello” after it has been told to go away. The parents’ mojo is lost and suddenly, that bunny looks mighty tasty…
5. Bottle-Nosed Dolphins, or “Stop Hitting Your Brother.”
Bottle-nosed dolphins are some of the most highly advanced creatures on our planet, with intellect rivaling and maybe surpassing humans. And yet, even they know when it’s time to just take out a kid or two. In the tight family pod unit, dolphins travel thousands of miles each year. Unfortunately, these long trips can affect the mental stability of even the best dolphin parent. After the 300th game of “Rock, Kelp, Crab,” or hearing “The Song That Never Ends” for 45 minutes, a dolphin parent simply can’t handle the stress of an inter-sibling fight. When the “I’m not touching him” phase of the journey begins, the dolphins will do anything for a little peace and quiet.
6. Polar Bears, or “NO MORE DORA!”
Polar bears often spend much of their time cooped up in their lairs with their children. A tired and frazzled polar bear mom may allow her offspring to watch some television in order to give her a moment to kill some dinner or to clean up the cave. Especially with a very young polar bear cub, the mother is subjected to hours of inane child-oriented programming, often starring a mono-syllabic talking animal or a musical medley that is impossible to get out of the head. When a polar bear parent attempts to turn the program off, the cub will go boneless, kick its feet, and scream unintelligibly about how mean the mother is. Needless to say, the polar bear tends to prove the cub right.
7. Tiger Salamanders, or “Can You Hear Me Now?”
For tiger salamanders, the adolescent years are some of the deadliest. A recent development in tiger salamander technology has allowed them the ability to communicate with each other via electronic messages. A parent of an adolescent tiger salamander will often ask their child a question, which results in verbal silence, a soft click of electronic buttons, and a delayed response of, “Huh? What did you say?” After weeks, days, or sometimes just hours of the child choosing to use the electronic device rather than participate in real-world activities, the device fuses with the body of the adolescent, making it almost impossible for him or her to have normal brain function. Upon seeing this, a sad and reticent parent will choose to put the child out of its misery, knowing that it can never truly live a normal life again.
8. Chickens, or “Procrastination Unto Death.”
It’s true: chickens aren’t the smartest creatures of all, but they have their limits. On the farm, there are duties that chickens must fulfill. Scientists have observed that several species of chicks are required to do large projects that must be completed by certain times. In severe cases, these chicks will wait until a few hours before the project is due to share that information with the adult chicken. This process usually results in poor quality science projects, badly-written papers, and dioramas that look like they were created in a hurricane. Finally, after being told and shown how to have better time management, the chick will again bring the parent a poster project that must be researched and completed by the next morning. Guess what’s on the menu that night? Chicken.