How far would you go to feed your kids? Mothers of some worm-like amphibians called caecilians literally give a piece of themselves, by allowing their young to eat their flesh. The mothers of Boulengerula taitanus create a nutrient-rich fatty outer layer of skin after laying their eggs. When their offspring hatch, the babies scrape this layer off with specialized teeth. “It’s quite an amazing thing to observe,” says biologist Mark Wilkinson of the Natural History Museum in London, lead author of an article describing the phenomenon in Nature this week.
Wilkinson’s group noticed the skin-eating behaviour in Kenya, after seeing that amphibian mothers are often a paler and milkier shade of blue than other females. They had also noticed that young amphibians are born with their own set of teeth.