The Most Impressive Examples of Animal Self-Medicating
This may be a shock, but humans aren’t the only ones who know a thing or two about natural remedies. Turns out animals don’t always need our help to stay healthy; whether that means eating certain plants or covering their homes in specific substances, they know how to get the job done. From tiny insects to the largest land mammal on Earth, here are some examples of animals who know how to self-medicate.
Even animals know how stressful pregnancy can be and the toll it takes on the body. Many can sense when something’s wrong and instinctively know how to handle it. They will treat themselves with specific plants depending on the problem, much like we humans take medication. African elephants in particular are known to eat plants that induce labor, most likely due to going past their already long gestation period. But sometimes there’s no clear reason to speed up the pregnancy- the poor mother was probably just tired of being pregnant!
While sheep aren’t exactly known for their intelligence, mother nature didn’t skip out on handing them medicinal instincts. Parasitic infections are a common occurrence among these domestic animals. And the treatment? Tannin-rich foods that kill the blood-sucking invaders. This trait is even passed down to their young, with lambs exhibiting the same behavior as their parents when infected. Not even their shepherd would think of doing this! Maybe this will make you change your mind about them.
3. House Sparrows and Finches
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. It seems that house sparrows and finches may have heard of this phrase as well. They are a resourceful bunch and have found some unique ways of making the most of our trash. Instead of using the natural resources around them, they’ll place discarded cigarette butts in their nests. No, not for decoration, but as a way to deter mites thanks to the nicotine. No mites equal better overall health for the birds and their offspring. Of course, don’t use this as an excuse to keep on littering. Always discard your cigarettes appropriately!
4. Woolly Bear Caterpillars
It’s not just the large animals who know how to self-medicate. Just because they’re small doesn’t mean that they lack the brainpower to maintain and improve their own health. Woolly bear caterpillars are under constant attack by the parasitic tachinid flies. It’s alright though, because these fuzzy insects are more than capable of handling it themselves. They have been observed scanning their environment in search of plants that contain toxins which eliminates the parasites. Afterall, these insects can’t turn into beautiful moths if they’re dead!
5. Wood Ants
Ants are known for being hard and cooperative workers. They live in colonies where everyone does their fair share for the benefit of the entire community. These tiny insects, like many creatures, are prone to pathogens and other microorganisms which, if left unchecked, can easily spread throughout the entire colony. Luckily, they have some impressive preventative measures set in place. The ants use conifer resin in their nests which drastically reduces their chances of infection. This is basically the animal version of human vaccines.
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