Potential self-medication using millipede secretions in red-fronted lemurs: combining anointment and ingestion for a joint action against gastrointestinal parasites?
Primates; journal of primatology | 31 Jul 2018
LR Peckre, C Defolie, PM Kappeler and C Fichtel
Self-anointing, referring to the behaviour of rubbing a material object or foreign substance over different parts of the body, has been observed in several vertebrate species, including primates. Several functions, such as detoxifying a rich food source, social communication and protection against ectoparasites, have been proposed to explain this behaviour. Here, we report observations of six wild red-fronted lemurs (Eulemur rufifrons) of both sexes and different age classes anointing their perianal-genital areas and tails with chewed millipedes. Several individuals also ingested millipedes after prolonged chewing. In light of the features of the observed interactions with millipedes, and the nature and potential metabolic pathways of the released chemicals, we suggest a potential self-medicative function. Specifically, we propose that anointing combined with the ingestion of millipedes' benzoquinone secretions by red-fronted lemurs may act in a complementary fashion against gastrointestinal parasite infections, and more specifically Oxyuridae nematodes, providing both prophylactic and therapeutic effects.
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