The Royal Society | Diets derived from maize monoculture cause maternal infanticides in the endangered European hamster due to a vitamin B3 deficiency
From 1735 to 1940, maize-based diets led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people from pellagra, a complex disease caused by tryptophan and vitamin B3 deficiencies. The current cereal monoculture trend restricts farmland animals to similarly monotonous diets. However, few studies have distinguished the effects of crop nutritional properties on the reproduction of these species from those of other detrimental factors such as pesticide toxicity or agricultural ploughing. This study shows that maize-based diets cause high rates of maternal infanticides in the European hamster, a farmland species on the verge of extinction in Western Europe. Vitamin B3 supplementation is shown to effectively restore reproductive success in maize-fed females. This study pinpoints how nutritional deficiencies caused by maize monoculture could affect farmland animal reproduction and hence their fitness.