July 5, 2022

Cannibalism is the eating of representatives of a biological species by representatives of the same species. Cannibalism in various manifestations is characteristic of almost the entire animal world. The term anthropophagy, cannibalism, or cannibalism is also used for human cannibalism.


The terms "cannibalism" and "cannibal" come from "caniba" - the name of the West Indian peoples given by Christopher Columbus, in which the Spaniards first observed cannibalism. Columbus gave this name, believing that he had sailed to Asia, and the aborigines he saw were subjects of Khan (Spanish: kan). These peoples later became known as the Caribs. The word "cannibal" was first recorded in the 1550s. Also, "cannibal" was wrongly derived from "canis" (lat. canis) - a dog. Although the term originated in relation to cannibalism by humans, since 1796 it has been extended to the entire animal world. "Anthropophagy" comes from the Greek word "anthropos" (Dav.-Gr. ανθρωπος, man) and "phagos" (Dav.-Gr. φάγος, devourer).

Cannibalism among animals

In zoology, cannibalism is recognized as a widespread ecological interaction of animals. In the animal world, it is a means of survival for both individuals and populations. Some animals eat their own children, parents, brothers, sisters in case of hunger. However, it is often also due to competition for living space - this behavior was revealed in particular by the experiments of John Calhoun. Cannibalism is also caused by the need to provide the offspring with food immediately after its birth, until the cubs can hunt for the usual prey for this species. A common form of cannibalism is the consumption by larger animals of a certain species of smaller or younger animals of the same species. Among animal populations structured by size, cannibalism can account for 8% to 95% of mortality, making it a significant factor in population growth dynamics. Structured cannibalism is commonly observed among octopuses, bats, frogs, including tadpoles, fish, salamanders, crocodiles, spiders, crustaceans, birds, mammals, and among a large number of insects, such as, for example, diving beetles and others. Cannibalism is especially common among aquatic populations, in which up to 90% of organisms practice cannibalism in one or another part of the life cycle. In some cases, for example, some spiders have babies, on the contrary