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Per T. Smiseth

ScienceShot: The Best Reason Not to Pester Mom

By: 
Helen Fields
2013-08-21 12:15
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The burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides is, honestly, kind of gross. It lays its eggs on the carcasses of mice, birds, and the like. When the larvae hatch, the parents crawl around regurgitating predigested carrion into their offspring's hungry mouths (as pictured above). The larvae beg for the barf by poking the parents' mouthparts with their legs. Researchers wondered what exactly was going on with the begging. Do babies beg all the time, or only when they're really, truly hungry? It’s most definitely the latter, according to a new study. The team found that begging comes with a major risk: cannibalism. Moms were more likely to eat larvae that were pestering them, the researchers report in the current issue of Behavioral Ecology. That means baby beetles probably don’t beg unless they really need the food.

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