Cobra cannibalism more prevalent than previously thought

Last spring, researchers in South Africa's Kalahari Desert found a large male cape cobra devouring another smaller male of the same species. Surprised by the thought-to-be-rare event, they decided to investigate how common ...

The dark side of cichlid fish—from cannibal to caregiver

Cannibalism, the eating of conspecifics, has a rational background in the animal kingdom. It may serve as a source of energy-rich nutrition or to increase reproductive success. Some species do not even spare their own brood. ...

Cannibalism: A new way to stop the spread of disease

Cannibalism may be just what the doctor ordered, according to a new study that will be published in American Naturalist led by former LSU postdoctoral researcher and current University of California, San Diego, or UCSD, postdoctoral ...

Why do some fish eat their own eggs?

Many animals go to great lengths to ensure the survival of their offspring - yet some species actually eat some or all of their babies. Nor is there always an obvious explanation – like a food shortage – for such filial ...

page 1 from 4

Cannibalism

Cannibalism (from Caníbales, the Spanish name for the Carib people, a West Indies tribe formerly well known for their practice of cannibalism) is the act or practice of humans eating the flesh of other human beings. It is also called anthropophagy. A person who practices cannibalism is called a cannibal.

While the expression "cannibalism" has origins in the act of humans eating other humans, it has extended into zoology to mean the act of any animal consuming members of its own type or kind, including the consumption of mates.

A related word, "cannibalize" (from which "cannibalization" is derived), has several meanings which are metaphorically derived from cannibalism and originally referred to the reuse of military parts. In manufacturing, it can refer to reuse of salvageable parts. In marketing, it may refer to the loss of a product's market share to another product from the same company. In publishing, it can mean drawing on material from another source.

Cannibalism was widespread in the past among humans in many parts of the world, continuing into the 19th century in some isolated South Pacific cultures, and to the present day in parts of tropical Africa. In a few cases in insular Melanesia, indigenous flesh-markets existed. Fiji was once known as the 'Cannibal Isles'. Cannibalism has been well documented around the world, from Fiji to the Amazon Basin to the Congo to Māori New Zealand. Neanderthals are believed to have practiced cannibalism, and they may have been eaten by modern humans.

Cannibalism has recently been both practiced and fiercely condemned in several wars, especially in Liberia and Congo. Today, the Korowai are one of very few tribes still believed to eat human flesh as a cultural practice. It is also still known to be practiced as a ritual and in war in various Melanesian tribes. Historically, allegations of cannibalism were used by the colonial powers to justify the enslavement of what were seen as primitive peoples; cannibalism has been said to test the bounds of cultural relativism as it challenges anthropologists "to define what is or is not beyond the pale of acceptable human behavior". Anthropophagy is an uncommon act that is not illegal in most US states nor in most countries. People who eat human flesh are usually charged with crimes not relating to anthropophagy, such as murder or desecration of a body.

Cannibalism has been occasionally practiced as a last resort by people suffering from famine. Occasionally it has occurred in modern times. A famous example is the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, after which some survivors ate the bodies of dead passengers. Also, some mentally ill individuals obsess about eating others and actually do so, such as Jeffrey Dahmer and Albert Fish. There is a resistance to formally labelling cannibalism as a mental disorder.

The theme of cannibalism has been featured in religion, mythology, fairy stories and in works of art; for example, cannibalism has been depicted in The Raft of the Medusa by the French lithographer Théodore Géricault in 1819. It has been satirized in popular culture, as in Monty Python's Lifeboat sketch.

This text uses material from Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA