Feeding Habits

November 3, 2010

The composition of food may influence not only physical but also mental development. According to popular belief, in Italy the districts growing white apricots give the world many more geniuses than all the other regions of the globe. Such suppositions are not completely unfounded.

At any rate many psychopharmacologists do not think it absolutely absurd to search for a substance which might produce geniuses, stimulate the brain and facilitate educational training and other mental processes. At some time in future this search will probably bear fruit.

Man is an omnivorous creature. Apart from sheer habit, nothing prevents him from adapting to any kind of food. There are few omnivorous species in the animal kingdom, for the majority of them eat a certain kind of food. Some feed on strange things — wood, wool, feathers, squama (fish-scale), or wax — which, on the face of it, do not seem to be very good to eat.

Animals of the same species may sometimes differ widely in their tastes. In a family of mosquitoes the females are blood-suckers because they need protein to produce otisprings, while the males are content with plant food.

Taste frequently changes with age. The evolution of feeding habits is particularly striking in African honey-guides. Those amusing little birds do not make their own nests, but abandon their eggs to other families just as our cuckoos do. The foster-parents feed the future honey-guide with insects, as they do their own offspring. But, when the little nestling grows up and becomes independent, it begins to search for destroyed bee nests and feed choicely on beeswax.

How and why it develops a passion for wax is ditllcult to say since its foster-parents do not teach it, but the honey-guide begins feeding exclusively at the expense of bees and looks for undamaged nests as well. How­ever, it is not strong enough to cope with a bee com­munity on its own and resorts to the help of stronger robbers (honey-badgers at the worst), its loud chirping notifying the local inhabitants and certain animals of its and means ‘eating human flesh’. It is also used to denote animals which feed on their own kind.

An interesting kind of cannibalism can be observed among avian ticks, which are carriers of spirochaetosis, an extremely dangerous disease for birds. When they attach themselves to a bird, the larvae of these mites, the nymphae and the adult insects do not always penetrate into its body. If there are a lot of them, a few always prove to be cannibals; these try to find a female tick or a nymph that has been already sucking blood and attach themselves to it. Sometimes another cannibal attaches itself to the first one, then a third cannibal and so on, making a queue of up to five, all sucking the bird’s blood or victim’s haemolymph from one another. The victim, incidentally, does not react to this onslaught at all. The chain of parasites feeding upon one another does not break apart until all of them have satisfied their hunger. The mites attacked by their fellows remain alive and continue to develop normally.

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One Response to Feeding Habits

  1. […] You may imagine that it is our natural aesthetic feelings that guard us against feeding on such strange things. Far from it. Don’t forget honey. This tasty and widely-used food is […]

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