Great bustards could ‘self-medicate’

November 24, 2022 at 9:30am,

Reading time: 2 minutes


Neither doctors nor pharmacies in the steppes and meadows. The great bustard (Otis late) it does not matter. A scientific study, published November 23 in the journal Frontiers in ecology and evolutionsuggests that this large bird — males can weigh up to 18 pounds — might be engaging in behaviors self-medication ».

We show that great bustards prefer to eat plants whose chemical compounds have antiparasitic effects in vitro. »explains in a press release Luis M. Bautista-Sopelana, scientist at the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid and co-author of this study.

To arrive at these results, the team of researchers (some of whom have been studying the great bustard for more than forty years) analyzed more than 600 samples of these birds’ droppings. Their results show that during the breeding season great bustards flock to two plants frequently used in traditional pharmacopoeias, poppy (Papaver rhoeas)and false plantain bugloss (Echium plantagineum). Tested in the laboratory, these two flowers are effective against protozoa (a tiny organism that can be a parasite) and nematodes (roundworms). Plantain false bugloss also works against fungi.

Medicinal plants used during the breeding season

Both males and females could benefit from these herbal remedies during the breeding season when sexually transmitted diseases are rampant.comments in a press release Azucena Gonzalez-Coloma, co-author of this study and researcher at the Institute of Agricultural Sciences of Madrid. Males using these plants may also appear healthier, more vigorous and therefore more attractive to females. »

However, the team of scientists asks to consider their findings with Attention ». Further studies are needed to have the definitive proof » that great bustards self-medicate. They are not the only ones: some scientists suspect that other species behave this way. Moose, fruit flies, parrots, primates, bears, deer… The profiles of potential medical trainees are varied. Again, warns Luis M. Bautista-Sopelana, more studies are needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn.

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