Public Release: 

Could hippos be meat eaters?


People often think hippos are herbivores with big smiling faces. Every now and then, reports of a hippo of hunting down prey, eating a carcass, or stealing prey from a crocodile are heard, but they're typically considered 'aberrant' or 'unusual' behaviour.

Now, however, a collaboration among researchers from 4 continents demonstrates that carnivory, or eating meat, is not uncommon among hippos at all, and that this behaviour may increase their susceptibility to mass mortality during anthrax outbreaks. Hippos, elephants, buffalo or antelope are often affected by anthrax epidemics, but anthrax outbreaks among hippos exhibit certain unusual characteristics that could be explained by consumption of the carcasses of infected animals - especially those of other hippos.

"The phenomenon of carnivory by hippos is crucial to an understanding of their susceptibility to this disease," said Joseph Dudley, co-author of the Mammal Review study.

"These reports fit the fact that hippos are the closest living relatives of whales, which are all carnivorous," added co-author Marcus Clauss.


About Wiley

Wiley is a global provider of knowledge and knowledge-enabled services that improve outcomes in areas of research, professional practice and education. Through the Research segment, the Company provides digital and print scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals, reference works, books, database services, and advertising. The Professional Development segment provides digital and print books, online assessment and training services, and test prep and certification. In Education, Wiley provides education solutions including online program management services for higher education institutions and course management tools for instructors and students, as well as print and digital content. The Company's website can be accessed at

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.