Long-tailed skinks on the nation’s outlying islet of Lanyu (蘭嶼) have been observed to eat their offspring — the mother lizards will eat their own eggs as a response to the frequent invasions of predatory snakes, Huang Wen-san (黃文山), an associate researcher at the National Museum of Natural Science reported on Friday.
Researchers studying the lizards suspect that the filial cannibalism is related to the mothers’ survival instincts, which direct them to strengthen themselves in defense against predators.
Huang — who has studied for more than a decade the behavior of the long-tailed skinks, or Mabuya longicaudata, and its enemy the Taiwan kukri snake, or Oligodon formosanus — first reported in 2006 the discovery of bizarre behavior among lizards on Lanyu. He documented that mother’s protected their eggs before they hatch, which is unusual among lizards.
PHOTO: SU MENG-CHUAN, TAIPEI
“Parental care is extremely rare among reptiles,” said Huang, adding that even the long tailed skink in Taiwan proper does not behave likewise. Female lizards always leave the clutch once they complete egg-laying.
During subsequent observation, Huang said he found an even more peculiar behavior among the lizards — the mother lizards would occasionally devour the whole clutch of her eggs.
Huang, who started his study of the two species after being “fascinated” years ago by the snake’s egg-foraging behavior, said he could not imagine at first why a species that tends to protect its offspring would engage in cannibalism.
Huang eventually concluded that filial cannibalism is similar to a “scorched earth policy.”
Mother lizards will fight back to protect their eggs against a snake’s intrusion, Huang reported. However, if the frequency of snake attacks exceeds a certain level, some mother lizards — especially pregnant ones — will sometimes consume all the eggs before they abandon the nest.
In a paper published on Aug. 27 in the journal Behavioral Ecology, Huang hypothesized that when the risk is too high to protect the eggs, the mothers try to save themselves by feeding on the eggs to strengthen themselves thus leaving no eggs for the snakes, so as to diminish their strength.
SMALL RESPITE: The past few rainy days, which came after one month of virtually no rain on the west coast, did not ease Taiwan’s water shortage problems, the CWB said A weather system from southern China has over the past three days replenished Taiwan’s reservoirs with almost 16 million tonnes of water, giving Taiwan a slight relief from a water shortage, the Water Resources Agency (WRA) said yesterday. From 12am on Tuesday to 4pm yesterday, about 15.97 million tonnes fell in the catchment areas of the nation’s reservoirs, which is slightly more than Taiwan’s average daily water use, it said. However, the rain would ease today, with only isolated showers forecast in Hualien and Taitung counties, as well as in southern Taiwan, the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) said. For other regions, cloudy to
A debt dispute between a restaurant owner and a criminal ring might be behind a bizarre cockroach attack at the Taipei eatery on Monday night while it was hosting a police gathering, Taipei Police Commissioner Chen Jia-chang (陳嘉昌) said yesterday. Preliminary findings of a police investigation into the case at the G House Taipei suggest that the unusual incident might have been directed at the restaurant’s owner, who allegedly owes money to the Bamboo Union, Chen said. The suspects were Bamboo Union members and there was no evidence indicating that the cockroaches were targeted at the police officers at the restaurant, he
Taiwan’s armed forces should closely monitor China’s development of a new tanker aircraft, as it would significantly boost the Chinese air force’s capability to carry out long-range raids, a military expert said on Wednesday. Ou Si-fu (歐錫富), a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said in an online article that China is developing a tanker variant of its Y-20 military transport aircraft, known as the Y-20U. The Y-20 has a maximum take-off weight of 220 tonnes and the tanker variant is expected to carry up to 60 tonnes of fuel, more than three times the maximum
TRAVELING WHILE CONTAGIOUS: The highest risk of infection is indoors, especially in settings where people take off their masks to eat and drink, an expert warned The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday posted a list of places visited by people who were recently diagnosed with COVID-19 while they were likely contagious, urging people who visited the sites at the same time to practice self-health management. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that confirmed case No. 1,129 — a woman in her 60s who works at Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport, a designated quarantine facility, and tested positive on Friday — visited Chiayi between Friday last week and Monday. On the first day of her trip, she visited the Big Chiayi