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Vulnerable spadefoot tadpoles eat their smaller competitors to speed towards toadhood as quickly as possible. Gulls and pelicans are among bird species that eat hatchlings for food or to prevent the spread of disease. In insect species such as the praying mantis or the Australian redback spider, males offer their bodies as a final gift to females after mating.
It's more common than you'd think in mammals too. Many rodent mothers may eat some of their young if they're sick, dead, or too numerous to feed. Bears and lions kill and eat the offspring of adult females to make them more receptive to mating. Chimpanzees sometimes cannibalize unlucky rivals, usually infants, seemingly for the mere opportunity of some extra protein.
Humans - Cannibalism - Taboo - Fact - Aversion
For humans though, cannibalism is the ultimate taboo. In fact, our aversion to cannibalism is so strong that consent and ethics count for little.
In one of our own experiments, participants were asked to consider the hypothetical case of a man who gave permission to his friend to eat parts of him once he died of natural causes.
Participants - Culture - Act - Act - Flesh
Participants read that this occurred in a culture that permitted the act, that the act was meant to honour the deceased, and that the flesh was cooked so that there was no chance of disease. Despite this careful description, about half of the participants still insisted that the act was invariably wrong.
Female praying mantises are known to bite off the heads of their sexual partners after mating.
Starkest - Situations - Act - Human - Flesh
Even in the starkest of situations, the act of eating another human's flesh remains almost beyond contemplation. Survivors of the famous 1972 Andes plane crash waited until near starvation before succumbing to reason and eating those who had already died.
One survivor, Roberto Canessa, felt that to eat his fellow passengers would be "stealing their souls" and descending towards "ultimate indignity"—despite...
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