Hippos Eat Meat, New Research Suggests

First Posted: Dec 07, 2015 07:13 PM EST

Though researchers typically think of hippos as herbivores, new research published in Mammal Review shows that this might not be quite the case.

"Field studies have demonstrated that hippos are facultative carnivores that consume flesh and intestinal tissues from the carcasses of other animals," researchers wrote, according to a journal abstract. "Carnivory is frequently associated with communal feeding involving multiple individuals or entire social groups of hippos."

Properly known as the hippopotamus--the third-largest type of land mammal with a barrel-shaped torso--researchers from four continents show how eating meat is not as uncommon among hippos as once believed. However, the study authors point out that this may increase the animal's susceptibility to mass mortality during anthrax outbreaks.

Along with antelope, buffalo and elephants, hippos are also often affected by anthrax epidemics. However, anthrax outbreaks among these animals can reveal unusual characteristics that might be explained by the consumption of the carcasses of infected animals.

"The phenomenon of carnivory by hippos is crucial to an understanding of their susceptibility to this disease," said co-study author Joseph Dudley, in a news release.

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