6 vegetarian animals we never suspected would have a taste for blood

Not so cute and cuddly after all
On the Scottish Island of Rum, seabird chicks sometimes turn up with their legs chewed off. Although red deer are partly to blame, it turns out the local sheep also play a role in the carnage. Scientists think that the island's naturally low levels of calcium may be driving the animals' eclectic food choices. That or we're living in the real life version of Black Sheep, and genetic engineering has created a herd of bloodthirsty killers. David Goehring/Flickr CC By 2.0
Polly Want A Hamburger?
Polly want a hamburger? VirtualWolf/Flickr CC By SA 2.0

Lorikeets are cute, colorful parrots that typically eat pollen and nectar. But some populations have also developed a taste for flesh. The species’ carnal appetite was discovered when a birdwatcher in Australia set out minced meat for omnivorous and carnivorous birds. Although he also set out foodstuffs for avian vegetarians, he noticed that the lorikeets were eating the meat. They even tried to scare off other birds who wanted a taste.

It turns out there are loads of “herbivorous” animals who eat meat when they get the chance–lorikeets are just the most recently reported example. Scientists aren’t sure why these alleged vegetarians sometimes eat meat. It could be pathological, or it could be related to the animal’s nutritional deficiencies in salt, iron, or protein. Over at Slate, writer Jackson Landers suggests it could be a matter of environmental upheaval. In other words, when humans and climate change alter habitats and food supplies, fortune favors animals that aren’t picky eaters.

Check out the gallery below to find which other species might haunt your nightmares tonight.