And you thought you had it bad when your mom said, "No cookies until after dinner"...at least your mother didn't devour her young! According to Brian Aucone, vice president for animal care at the Denver Zoo, a wide variety of animals have been documented killing and occasionally cannibalizing their children. "Animals don't tend to be as loving to their offspring as we think," says Aucone, noting that we humans often transpose our own emotions onto animals. "These mothers may appear to be cute and cuddly one day, and then they'll turn around and eat their young the next."
So here, just in time for Mother's Day, are many reasons to remember just how good we have it. No kidding!
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Although animals eating their young doesn't seem "evolutionarily advantageous," Aucone admits, that doesn't stop king cobras. As soon as baby snake-eating-snakes leave the nest, they're considered "fair game" for their cannibalizing mommas. "The Komodo dragon, a large species of lizard, will also eat their young, if they can catch them," adds Aucone.
Bad mommy issues are also for the birds -- guira cuckoos and house sparrows, to be precise. According to biochemist Brittany Hodgson, cramped nests and limited resources frequently drive mother cuckoos and sparrows to send eggs and hatchlings plummeting to untimely, messy deaths.
In matriarchal meerkat societies, there's a whole lot of infanticide happening. These South African squirrel-sized mongoose mommas don't hesitate to off a significant percentage of their young when merging with other meerkat groups. (This does not bode well for blended families, friends. Just think how
awesome gruesome The Brady Bunch could have been if Carol and Mike had taken a few cues from the meerkats: "Carol, honey, could you get in here right now and explain why Greg's head is no longer attached to his torso?")
And thank your lucky stars that your mother isn't a prairie dog. The cute little critters often pick a favorite child and then kill the rest of their litter. According to the BBC, rats, too, have been documented killing deformed and otherwise disliked children. (Suddenly you understand why only-children are so fucking weird, huh?)
According to Primatology, sweet little moustached tamarin mother monkeys have been seen viscously beheading and devouring their infants during the postpartum period.
And don't be fooled by the damselfish's name: She's no fair maiden. Damselfish mothers routinely eat their own embryos for nourishment.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, even mother pigs occasionally engage in "savaging" -- which is just a fancy word for brutally slaying their adorable little newborn gilts. Sorry, w-w-w-Wilbur...
And I'm pretty sure my older son is going to have a bizarre sexual dysfunction that involves masturbating while watching cows being milked as a direct result of my singing "Pump Up the Jam" every time he watched me pump little bro's bottles. I used to feel guilty about this, until I found out that female lions mate with newcomer male lions (those searching for a pride to overthrow) immediately after the incoming male has violently killed and eaten several of the female's cubs from the previous pride leader's lineage. (I'm thinking the surviving cubs are going to need some serious therapy later in life.)
So this Sunday, when you take your mom to Mother's Day at the Denver Zoo, remember to lean over and softly whisper "thanks" as you pass the lions (and pigs and primates and birds and reptiles). After all, her animal instincts have been telling her to kill and eat you for the past 25 years. But, saint that she is, she's ignored the call of the wild.
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