Humans aren’t the only species that finds creative ways to self-medicate, according to a recent study by scientists at Emory University.
“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!
Image Credit: Flickr - docentjoyce