Infanticide, or the killing and eating of young by their parents, has been observed in a number of animal species including primates, cats, dogs, whales, rodents, insects, and fish. It occurs for several reasons. First, mothers sometimes kill deformed or wounded infants in order to conserve their resources (milk, food, attention, etc.) for the more healthy members of the litter. Second, some herd animals (like lions) may kill some of their young, especially males, in order to assert their continuing dominance over more submissive members of the group. Third, animals may kill and eat their young as a result of psychological stress or extreme hunger, both common effects of overpopulation or crowding due to habitat loss. This is more common among rodents.
One animal that has been observed eating its own offspring is the male sand goby fish. The sand goby usually eats about one third of the eggs he is protecting, tending to focus on the larger eggs. This is not done out of hunger even when the sand goby has excess to food he eats his offspring. Scientists believe that the male sand goby does this because larger eggs take longer to hatch and would require that he defend them longer, which prevents him from mating sooner. Other reasons why different animals kill their offspring could be because of hunger, to weed out the weak (ensure the strongest survive and carry their genes on), and to reduce competition between offspring for resources.
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