The ability of many animals to get high recreationally or as self-medication studied for years. In the first case, for example, it was observed kangaroo randomly running through poppy fields, from which, among other drugs, heroin is obtained. The possibility that some elephants take fermented fruits to get something like a binge. And in the second case, we find dolphins rubbing against certain types of coral to fight certain skin infections. Now, in addition, we know that bustardthe heaviest flying bird in existence, could also self-medicate with compounds specific to traditional human medicine.

This is the conclusion of a study that has just been published in Frontiers of ecology and evolution, CSIC scientists. In their research, they not only analyzed plants eaten by bustardsbut they also learned circumstances under which they self-medicate.

This is far beyond the scope of most research on self-treatment of animals which have been carried out. In fact, it is usually impossible to state or claim with certainty that they are self-medicating. In this case, too, it is impossible to guarantee, but there is much more certainty, since intentionality is indicated in the consumption of these substances.

Why do bustards self-medicate?

Bustards breed in so-called lex. These are the places where males gather and collect females to put on a mating show.

After this phase, females they go back to where they were born They spend their entire lives in the area. Nonetheless, males return every year repeat their performance in the same lek.

They spend a lot of time together on a not too big space site. That’s why, faeces accumulate And sanitation leaves much to be desired. Just when you need to see the latest. The ideal would be to be able to take medication to prevent parasitic infections that rob them of energy or affect their appearance. This is where bustard self-treatment seems to come into play.

Caroline Bravo

Plants known to man

The authors of this study spent decades collecting feces bustard in Castile-Leon and Murcia. In total they were received 623 samples, which were observed under a microscope, looking for recognizable plant remains. They saw all kinds of plants known to be part of the bustard’s diet. However, two especially attracted his attention: corn poppy (maca reas) and purple viper (Echium plantain).

What was striking was that the remains of this plant were found mostly in the litter of males, and especially in those collected during the mating season, during the breeding months. March and April.

Corn poppy is used in folk medicine as pain reliever, sedative and immune system booster. As for the purple viper bugloss, although toxic to humans in large quantities, it has also been studied in folk medicine for the treatment boils and ingrown nails. Moreover, they both have interesting nutritional profile.

All this led these scientists to the idea that bustards self-medicated with these plants. So they took extracts from each of them and analyzed their composition. They discovered a variety of alkaloids used by the plants themselves to protect yourself from herbivores. And could this indicate that they are useful as antiparasitic agents?

Antiparasitic self-medication

To find out if this was the case, they put these extracts in contact with three parasites known to infect bustards: protozoa Trichomonas gallinanematode (parasitic worm) Meloidogyn Javanica and fungus Aspergillus niger. Thus, they saw that they were right, as both plants were effective against protozoa and nematodes and, in addition, bluegoss gave very good results against the fungus.

With all these results, it does not seem coincidental that male bustards make up part of their diet on these plants in mating season. This is your way to prevent illness at a time when your good health is essential. Since wild birds do not have access to modern medicine, we will forgive them self-medication with plants. In the case of humans, it’s a different story.

Source: Hiper Textual

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