The world’s heaviest flying bird uses plants to self-medicate CNN
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Taking drugs if you’re feeling under the weather is old news for humans, but new research shows that the world’s heaviest flight-capable bird could be the latest animal to use plants as a form of medicine.
Researchers from Madrid, Spain, studied data on 619 litters belonged to Houbara bustards and discovered that the two types of plants that were eaten more than other foods in their diet had “anti-parasitic effects”.
“Here we show that large bustards prefer to eat plants that contain chemical compounds with antiparasitic effects,” said Luis M. Bautista Sobelana, a scientist at the Madrid National Museum of Natural Sciences and lead author, in a press release on Wednesday.
The great houbara, found in parts of Europe, Africa and Asia, has been found as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of endangered species, with about 70% of the world’s population living in the Iberian Peninsula, according to the statement.
Published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution on Wednesday, the study revealed that the great bustard ate an abundant amount of poppy (Papaver rhoeas) and purple boa (Echium plantagineum). In humans, cornflower has been used for its medicinal properties as a sedative and analgesic, while purple boa thread can be toxic if ingested.
By analyzing the plant extracts, the researchers discovered that they both have antiparasitic properties, which they tested against three common parasites in Birds: protozoans Trichomonas gallinae, nematodes Meloidogyne javanica and fungus Aspergillus niger.
Both plants were highly effective in killing or inhibiting the effects of protozoa and nematodes, according to the study. Purple adder flickers showed mild defensive actions against the fungus.
The researchers pointed out that these plants were consumed especially during the mating season, which they believe negates the effects of increased exposure to parasites during that period.
The great bustard Known as a lek breeder, which means that males congregate at selected locations to show displays to female visitors, then select a mate based on the display, the press release reads.
“Theoretically, both sexes of the great houbara might benefit from foraging for medicinal plants in the mating season when sexually transmitted diseases are common — while males using plants containing potent disease-fighting compounds might appear healthier, stronger and more attractive to females.” ,” Azucena González Coloma, researcher at the Institute of Agricultural Sciences in Madrid and co-author of the study, said in the release.
Paul Rose, a zoologist and lecturer in animal behavior at the University of Exeter in England, said the findings show that large bustards are able to determine what is good for them at a given time and change their foraging behavior accordingly. He did not participate in the study.
“We usually associate self-medication with species like primates, so seeing researchers who study endangered birds is great,” Rose told CNN.
Chimpanzees have been seen picking up insects and applying them to their own wounds, as well as those of others, possibly as a form of medicine, while dolphins rub against certain types of coral to protect their skin from infection.
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