Wild hamsters in north-eastern France are becoming endangered based on reports published in the British Royal Society journal Proceedings B. Thus, researchers ought to find the culprit behind this disturbing change.
Researchers led by Mathilde Tissier at the University of Strasbourg say that the destruction of the Cricetus cricetus natural habitat may be the missing link of their dramatic decrease in population.
Cricetus cricetus (c) Hamster Central
Due to the impact of pesticides and mechanized ploughing, the once well-nourished hamsters which formerly had a wide range of diet, now only feed on semi-sterile and unbroken ocean of industrially grown corn.
Experts therefore studied how restricted diet affects the hamsters and their reproduction. For the test, they gathered wild specimens and sectioned them into two groups. The first group to eat wheat, and the second one to feed on corn. Both groups are served with side dishes of clover or worms.
Results showed that both groups showed no difference in the number of pups born, or the basic nutritional value of the different menus. However, when it comes to survival rates, the outcome was appalling.
Only 5% of the baby hamsters whose mothers had corn-based diet survived, compared to four-fifths of the pups whose mothers ate wheat-and-clover or wheat-and-worms. The reason behind the survival rate was rather sickening.
Hamsters who had corn-based diet ate their own pups. “Females stored their pups with their hoards of maize before eating them,” the scientists said in a statement
. “Pups were still alive at that time.”
These hamsters also showed other signs of abnormality such as running in circles, and “climbing and pounding their feeders.” They also had had swollen and dark tongues, and extremely thick blood.
Experts knew why, and said the symptoms are clearly signs of Vitamin B3 deficiency, or pellagra in humans. This disease also has symptoms of diarrhea, dementia, and dermatitis, such as eczema.
“Improperly cooked maize-based diets have been associated with higher rates of homicide, suicide and cannibalism in humans,” the researchers note.
Researchers say that vitamin B3 deficiency may lead to changes in the nervous system, inducing the same “dementia-like” behaviour. This could be the explanation behind the hamsters eating their own young.
In another experiment, experts included B3 on corn-based diet of hamsters, which eliminated the ghastly symptoms of cannibalism in hamsters.