Hamsters are one of society’s favorite rodents for a reason. They’re tiny, cute, and the worst thing they can do is take a poo in your hand. Or…is it? Could our cuddly friends be up to more sinister activities? Researchers in France have found that an all-corn diet caused hamsters to exhibit some unusual behaviors.
Move over, Hannibal Lecter. There are new cannibals in town. Hamstabal Lecters, if you will.
The University of Strasbourg conducted a study in an effort to find out why the European hamster (Cricetus cricetus, for you biology buffs out there) population has significantly decreased. Original research suspected that pesticide use and industrial ploughing were to blame, but a lack of evidence failed to support this theory.
Mathilde Tissier, head of the research team, examined the food source of the hamsters. Although it originally consisted of grains, insects, and roots, corn quickly replaced the hamster’s diet once industrial farming took over.
Next came the experiment which studied the differences between corn and wheat-based diets.
According to The Guardian,
In addition to eating their young alive (!), the corn-eating hamsters developed “black tongues,” and began to act like a bunch of maniacs. Much like the hamsters experienced:
B3 deficiency was the number one suspect for the hamster’s behavior. And, in order to remedy the situation, researchers added B3 to the hamster’s diets. Thankfully, it helped and there were no more cannibal hamsters!
Although the hamsters may be pests to farmers, biodiversity is a vital part of the ecosystem and is protected under French law. Researchers suggested that the best means of fixing the problem of Hannibal Lecter hamsters is “to restore a diverse range of plants in agriculture schemes.”
Let’s hope it works, because we have all seen monster movies and we know where a few cannibal critters will end up otherwise.
Save us, Science!!