An Animal Uses Millipedes As A Form Of Medicine To Fight Parasites
While humans are clearly the most mentally advanced group of animals that exist, some animals can show a degree of ingenuity that no human could ever match. For example, entomologists have been studying a millipede species that produces its own insecticides in order to repel predators. What may be even more impressive than this millipede, is the lemur that makes use of this millipede’s toxins for its own defensive purposes.
It is never wise to put a millipede in your mouth, as they are notorious for the harmful toxins they produce, but for red-fronted lemurs, this may be a good idea. Back in November of 2016, animal behaviorist Louise Peckre stumbled upon a lemur that was chewing millipedes that it had found on the ground. However, the lemur did not swallow the millipedes; instead, it rubbed the chewed pieces of millipede carcasses all over its body, particularly around the genital area. As it happens, the lemur may be doing this in order to kill and repel intestinal parasites by means of the millipede toxins.
Peckre witnessed this lemur’s bizarre behavior at Madagascar’s Kirindy Forest. In all, the lemur consumed three giant millipedes after rubbing a good portion of their ground body parts on its bottom half. By the time the lemur ceased this act, its entire bottom half had become completely soaked with a frothy mix of saliva and ground millipede parts, including, and most importantly, the millipede’s toxins. Later that very same day, Peckre witnessed identical behavior in two more lemurs in another area of the park. Although this behavior has never been witnessed before, Peckre and several of her colleagues believe that the lemurs were using the Giant Millipede’s toxins to combat intestinal parasites. This theory is in line with knowledge already gathered concerning the Giant Millipede’s insecticide-like toxins. The giant millipede produces these toxins in order to repel enemies, and the lemurs are using the millipedes for largely the same purpose. It also makes sense that the lemurs would focus on their genital area, as parasites exiting the their backside are killed while laying their eggs over the lemur’s toxin-soaked skin. The toxin with insecticidal properties is known as benzoquinone, and researchers are using it to develop insecticides.
Do you know of any other insect species that has been documented as self-medicating?