From terrorist attacks to muggings, people are clearly among the most violent of species, but new research suggests that unprovoked killing not associated with hunting could be far more common in the animal kingdom than previously thought.
It appears that killing to reduce competition between species happens frequently, even when the killer is an herbivore that could care less about eating its victim.
A new paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B documents how herbivorous white-tailed prairie dogs regularly kill Wyoming ground squirrels, leaving behind bloody bodies that the killers have no desire to eat.
Photos: Prairie Dogs Revealed as Serial Killers
"I describe the behavior in eight words: catch them, shake them, kill them, leave them," lead author John Hoogland of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Appalachian Laboratory told Discovery News.
Hoogland and co-author Charles Brown had no idea what they were in for when they took on a project to study the basic behavior of veggie-loving white-tailed prairie dogs. Sitting in an observation tower surrounded by the animals, Hoogland started to notice the unprovoked killings.