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What we can learn from cannibalistic moths

The diet of a food moth consists mainly of cereals, pasta, rice and other dried foods; however, it is little known that they are sometimes cannibals and do not hesitate to eat one another, even their relatives.

This behaviour isn’t uncommon amongst the Indian meal moth when there isn’t enough food and despite it being fairly gruesome behaviour, there is some evidence to prove that this is not because of the species.

The researchers purposefully moved the larvae of the moths to investigate how different conditions can impact their behaviour and specifically their cannibalistic habits. The findings were quite impressive and informative as it was revealed that to reduce cannibalism, the conditions needed to be more crowded.

“Families that were highly cannibalistic just didn’t do well in that system,” explains Volker Rudolf, a biologist from Rice University.

“Families that were less cannibalistic had much less mortality and produced more offspring.”

This supports a previous theory that stated that when animals have much more contact with one another, the rate of cannibalism becomes hugely reduced. This is believed to be because it would not be in their interest to eat your offspring and this is much more likely to happen in cramped conditions.

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