Sunday, 23 February 2014

Tadpoles Turn to Cannibalism Only When Desperate

By Laura Poppick, Staff Writer | February 20, 2014 05:49pm ET

Though seemingly docile creatures, tadpoles can get snippy when hungry, and sometimes end up eating each other when the stakes are high. Now, new research suggests that the tiny creatures are not ruthless cannibals, but rather only eat their pond-mates when resources are scarce. Otherwise, they avoid this actually nutritious option.

Many species of frogs, salamanders and other amphibians demonstrate some degree of cannibalism, particularly when resources are scarce. Still, whether the animals prefer this dietary option or rely on it only as a last resort remains unclear in some cases.

Researchers based at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada wondered whether cannibalism was the most nutritious dietary option for tadpoles — common throughout northern North America. This would make sense because, theoretically, the meat of one's own species should contain vitamins and nutrients in quantities well suited for an individual's physiology.

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