Great bustards could ‘self-medicate’

November 24, 2022 at 9:30 a.m.,

Reading time: 2 minutes


Neither doctors nor pharmacies in the steppes and meadows. The great bustard (Otis delayed) is not a remedy. A scientific study, published on November 23 in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolutionsuggests that this large bird – males can weigh up to 18 kilos – could have behaviors self-medication ».

We show that great eating bustards prefer 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 excrement from these birds. Their results show that during the breeding season, the great bustards rush to two plants frequently used in traditional pharmacopoeias, the poppy (Papaver rhoeas)and false plantain bugloss (Echium plantagineum). Tested in laboratories, these two flowers are effective against protozoa (a tiny organism that can be a parasite) and nematodes (roundworms). False plantain’s bugloss also acts 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 in Madrid. Males who use these plants may also appear healthier, more vigorous, and therefore more attractive to females. »

The team of scientists nevertheless calls for considering their results with caution ». Further studies are needed to have the ultimate proof » that the great bustards self-medicate. They are not the only ones: some scientists suspect other species to engage in this kind of behavior. Elks, fruit flies, parrots, primates, bears, deer… The profiles of potential apprentice doctors are varied. Here again, warns Luis M. Bautista-Sopelana, other studies must be required before drawing definitive conclusions.

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