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Monarch Butterflies Use Plants As Medicine (Video)

Monarch Butterflies Use Plants As Medicine (Video)

Humans aren’t the only species that finds creative ways to self-medicate, according to a recent study by scientists at Emory University.

Research journal Ecology Letters recently published findings that demonstrate monarch butterflies use certain plants as medication to cure themselves and their offspring of disease.

“We have shown that some species of milkweed, the larva’s food plants, can reduce parasite infection in the monarchs,” said study leader Jaap de Roode, an evolutionary biologist at Emory University (Futurity).

“And we have also found that infected female butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on plants that will make their offspring less sick, suggesting that monarchs have evolved the ability to medicate their offspring.”

During the study, experiments showed that egg-laying monarchs that are infected with a parasite choose plants that have a medicinal benefit for their caterpillars.

Scientists hope that learning more about how wildlife uses plants to prevent disease could lead to a better understanding of how humans can benefit from organic medications as well.

“Studying organisms engaged in self-medication gives us a clue as to what compounds might be worth investigating for their potential as human medicines,” said University of Michigan chemical ecologist Mark Hunter, who collaborated with de Roode’s group on the research.

Watch the video to learn more, and get a tour of one of the few labs in the world studying monarch butterflies!

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Image Credit: Flickr - docentjoyce

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57 comments

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11:24AM PST on Nov 28, 2012

I've passed this on because I find it fascinating. Nature is so wonderful!

7:01PM PDT on Mar 24, 2012

animals are super smart, many species self medicate with herbs, primates, horses, goats, they are incredible!

8:32AM PDT on Jul 22, 2011

What a great articlel/video, thanks so much...

6:41AM PDT on Nov 2, 2010

thanks for sharing : )

2:37AM PDT on Oct 28, 2010

Wow, pretty cool.

4:46PM PDT on Oct 25, 2010

I really enjoyed this article and video... Isn't nature great! How much more is there to be learned from all species!

11:12AM PDT on Oct 25, 2010

Great information. It is interesting that an insect such as a butterfly can actually make a distinction as to what is good for their offspring and we as humans struggle with that! Amazing!

7:45AM PDT on Oct 25, 2010

Wow! Perfection is in nature!

6:35AM PDT on Oct 25, 2010

Very interesting article, thanks!

11:13PM PDT on Oct 24, 2010

More animals self-medicate than we know about. They are great at healing themselves.

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