Thursday, July 22

Self medicating Primates

This is pretty damn cool.
A Madagascan lemur has been revealed as the first animal known to self-medicate when pregnant. Female sifaka eat plants rich in poisonous tannins in the weeks before giving birth, researchers have discovered. It is unclear why the sifaka does this. In other mammals, small doses of tannins kill parasites and stimulate milk production. And vets often use tannins to prevent miscarriage, raising the intriguing possibility that by eating the plants the sifaka is protecting its developing baby.

At first sight, a taste for tannins might seem odd whether you are pregnant or not. Plants use them as defensive chemicals to deter herbivores from munching their leaves, as the toxic tannins bind to proteins in the animals' guts.

"The sifakas are doing something that goes against the grain," says Michael Huffman, an expert in primate self-medication at Kyoto University in Japan and a member of the team. "But this probably means they have a good reason for doing it."

Every year we learn that animal behavior is more rich and complex than previously expected. Paleo Anthropology is a favorite subject of mine. Evidence continues to mount that out prehistoric ancestors were much brighter than we had thought.

Right now there is evidence to support that North America was populated by Europe and Asia and that clovis point technology originated in Europe. Unfortunately a large amount of the evidence that would confirm a certain level of technical prowess has long since decomposed, exceptions being textillery discovered on the mummies of monte verde and the desert mummies in western china.

What has any of this to do with self medicating Sifaka Lemurs? I am sure that there is a connection but that is for a much longer and possibly boring paper.
By the way, the Mother and child below are Sifaka's.