PerspectiveEcology

Self-Medication in Animals

Science  12 Apr 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6129, pp. 150-151
DOI: 10.1126/science.1235824

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Summary

The concept of antiparasite self-medication in animals typically evokes images of chimpanzees seeking out medicinal herbs to treat their diseases (1, 2). These images stem partly from the belief that animals can medicate themselves only when they have high cognitive abilities that allow them to observe, learn, and make conscious decisions (3). However, any concept of self-medication based solely on learning is inadequate. Many animals can use medication through innate rather than learned responses. The growing list of animal pharmacists includes moths (4), ants (5), and fruit flies (6). The fact that these animals self-medicate has profound implications for the ecology and evolution of animal hosts and their parasites.

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