Corn turning French hamsters into deranged cannibals: research

January 27, 2017 by Marlowe Hood
The major consumption of corn leads to infanticide among the Great hamster, a rodent threatened in Alsace, according to a recent study highlighting "problems related to monoculture"

A diet of corn is turning wild hamsters in northeastern France into deranged cannibals that devour their offspring, alarmed researchers have reported.

"There's clearly an imbalance," Gerard Baumgart, President of the Research Centre for Environmental Protection in Alsace, and an expert on the European hamster, told AFP on Friday.

"Our hamster habitat is collapsing."

More common farther to the east, Cricetus cricetus in critically endangered in western Europe.

The findings, reported last week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, finger industrial-scale monoculture as the culprit.

Once nourished by a variety of grains, roots and insects, the burrowing rodents live today in a semi-sterile and unbroken ocean of industrially grown maize, or corn.

The monotonous diet is leaving the animals starving, scientists discovered almost by accident.

The problem is a lack of vitamins. In fact, one in particular: B3, or niacin.

Researchers led by Mathilde Tissier at the University of Strasbourg had set out to determine whether hamster diet affects their ability to reproduce in the wild.

Baby hamsters eaten alive

Earlier work had looked at the impact of pesticides and mechanised ploughing, which can destroy their underground homes, especially during hibernation in winter.

But the possible link with what they eat remained unexplored.

A first set of lab experiments with wild specimens compared wheat and corn-based diets, with side dishes of clover or worms.

There was virtually no difference in the number of pups born, or the basic nutritional value of the different menus.

But when it came to survival rates, the difference was dramatic.

About four-fifths of the pups born of mothers feasting on wheat-and-clover or wheat-and-worms were weaned.

Only five percent, however, of the baby hamsters whose mothers ate corn instead of wheat made it that far.

The usually cute-and-cuddly hamsters ran in circles, "climbing and pounding their feeders," when scientists entered the room, researchers at the University of Strasbourg said

What was most disturbing is how they perished.

"Females stored their pups with their hoards of maize before eating them," the scientists reported. "Pups were still alive at that time."

The cannibal mothers showed other signs of abnormality.

The usually cute-and-cuddly hamsters ran in circles, "climbing and pounding their feeders," when scientists entered the room.

The females also had swollen and dark tongues, and blood so thick it was difficult to draw for samples.

The researchers recognised the symptoms, and had a hunch as to what was causing them.

Vitamin B3 deficiency has been linked to 'black-tongue' syndrome in dogs, and a condition in humans called pellagra, also known as the "3-D" disease: diarrhoea, 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.

'Dementia-like' behaviour

Pellagra is thought to have decimated some three million people in North America and Europe from the mid-18th to the mid-20th century.

Tissier and her colleagues thought of a simple way to find out if their corn-crazed hamsters were suffering from a similar condition.

In a second set of experiments, they offered hamsters corn-based diets, one of them with B3 added.

Sure enough, the vitamin-enriched diet was enough to eliminate the horrific symptoms, and prevent the female from eating their young.

The dire consequences of the B3-deficient corn diet, the scientists concluded, stemmed not from reduced maternal hormones, but rather a change in the nervous system that induced the same "dementia-like" behaviour diagnosed in humans.

"Knowing that these species already face many threats, and that most of them are in danger of extinction, it is urgent to restore a diverse range of plants in agriculture schemes," the researchers urged.

Baumgart, who has been fighting for years to protect the endangered rodents, agrees.

"Monoculture in agriculture is really bad for biodiversity," he said.

"Now we need to take concrete action."

Explore further: Study shows a way to tell if your hamster is happy

More information: Mathilde L. Tissier et al. Diets derived from maize monoculture cause maternal infanticides in the endangered European hamster due to a vitamin B3 deficiency, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2017). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.2168

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18 comments

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arcmetal
5 / 5 (1) Jan 27, 2017
I saw this on South Park.
antigoracle
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 27, 2017
Hmm.... did they just discover what caused the downfall of the Aztec empire?
aksdad
2.7 / 5 (7) Jan 27, 2017
The hyperbole here is so blatant that it begs for a debunking. I'm happy to provide it.

A diet of corn is turning wild hamsters in northeastern France into deranged cannibals that devour their offspring, alarmed researchers have reported.

Nowhere in the study do they show any of this is actually happening to hamsters in the wild. The researchers are from Research Centre for Environmental Protection, so clearly they have an agenda. They theorize that vitamin deficiency MAY happen to wild hamsters if they only have a crop of corn to eat and nothing else to provide niacin. Apparently it doesn't occur to the researchers that hamsters in the wild would also eat other kinds of food rich in niacin.

Corn accounts for only 19% of the cereal crops in France so chances are pretty good that if there are deranged cannibal hamsters in the wild, there aren't many.

http://ec.europa....date.png
aksdad
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 27, 2017
The researchers inadvertently made an excellent case for developing genetically modified corn with enhanced niacin yield. Someone should get on that...
IronhorseA
3 / 5 (2) Jan 27, 2017
The researchers inadvertently made an excellent case for developing genetically modified corn with enhanced niacin yield. Someone should get on that...


After the major effort to demonize GMO crops due to their inability to catch up to American GMO technology, they'd have a hard time doing an about face. Rah, Rah, Rah organic ;P
Osiris1
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 28, 2017
Bill Maher once called Donald Trumpfs supporters a knuckle dragger army. Most of his supporters are poor people often susceptable to demogogic illogic and propaganda that to a logical person makes little sense. Having lived with and around many poor people in my life, I know that many of them have nutrition deficient diets, often living on cheap bread...or lately, ramen noodles. It is maybe out of such that pellagic conditions can manifest, possibly including the type of vitamin b3 deficiency psychosis associated with it. Of course, trying to get all those rednecks to take vitamin b3 pills would be.....difficult.
entrance
5 / 5 (2) Jan 28, 2017
That's so terrible what we do to this world.

"There's clearly an imbalance,"

That's exactly what i always say since months. Everything is out of balance. I am pleased to read an article whose editor is of my opinion.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (6) Jan 28, 2017
Bill Maher once called Donald Trumpfs supporters a knuckle dragger army. Most of his supporters are poor people often susceptable to demogogic illogic and propaganda that to a logical person makes little sense. Having lived with and around many poor people in my life, I know that many of them have nutrition deficient diets, often living on cheap bread...or lately, ramen noodles. It is maybe out of such that pellagic conditions can manifest, possibly including the type of vitamin b3 deficiency psychosis associated with it. Of course, trying to get all those rednecks to take vitamin b3 pills would be.....difficult.

Wonder how hard it would be to get those hamsters to eat them.
Anonym
5 / 5 (5) Jan 28, 2017
"Pellagra is thought to have decimated some three million people in North America and Europe"

Note to editor: Incorrect use of "decimated" if what you are trying to say is that 3 million died.



katesisco
5 / 5 (3) Jan 28, 2017
OK. In the US is was discovered the children of the southern states were B3 deficient. Is it not correct that your body can make vitamins, all except for B12, when the food you eat is properly mineralized. Does this go for hamsters also?
Yes, we get that now the gen moders will demand corn enriched with B3.
Potatoes, from SA, proved to be the salvation of Ireland. Amazingly enough, the tatie, grown in a lazy-bed, fueled the Irish component of the overseas British Army.
katesisco
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 28, 2017
The danger is that the vitamin deficit will allow the increase in pathogen load. D Keys in CATASTROPHE theorizes that the east coast of Africa fed the Med and further over to Wales, and the collapse perhaps due to monocropping, led to plague animals boarding ships and spreading. He speculates the Arthurian kingdom fell due plague.
orti
2.7 / 5 (6) Jan 28, 2017
Is it corn or being from France that causes the derangement?
maholmes1
4.3 / 5 (3) Jan 28, 2017
Is it corn or being from France that causes the derangement?


No, it's He Who Walks Behind The Rows.

Uncle Ira
Jan 28, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
carbon_unit
Jan 29, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
GuruShabu
Jan 29, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Estevan57
3 / 5 (2) Jan 29, 2017
Sauve qui peut! Hamsters zombie du maïs!
SamB
not rated yet Jan 30, 2017
Imagine what it is doing to the French peoples...

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