Hamsters in northern France are suffering deficiencies in their diet to such an extent they are eating their own pups.
Scientists are blaming monoculture in agriculture which is causing hamsters to exist purely on industrially grown maize or corn instead of a variety of crops. As a result their corn diet is deficient in important vitamins like B3 or niacin.
"There's clearly an imbalance," said Gerard Baumgart, President of the Research Centre for Environmental Protection in Alsace. "Our hamster habitat is collapsing."
About four-fifths of the pups born of mothers had a varied diet. Only 5%, however, of the baby hamsters whose mothers ate corn made it that far.
The scientists reported: "Females stored their pups with their hoards of maize before eating them. Pups were still alive at that time."
Scientists noticed other signs of abnormal behaviour from the hamsters including "climbing and pounding their feeders". The females also had swollen and dark tongues and blood so thick it was difficult to draw for samples.
But when the researchers gave them vitamin B3 in their corn diets the symptoms disappeared and they retracted from eating their babies.
"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," researchers urged according to a report in The Guardian.