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The Practice of Medicine by Monkeys

by zoobyshoe
Tags: medicine, monkeys, practice
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Oct14-12, 04:22 PM
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The practice of medicine, it seems, was probably in place well before the emergence of modern man:

They [white faced capuchin monkeys] rub themselves with leaves from the piper plant, which is also used by some people in Costa Rica as an insect repellant. The piper leaves are also antiseptic, which helps ward off bacterial and fungal infections.
Tamarins have been known to swallow large seeds that in effect dislodge and sweep worms out of their intestinal tract. This practice markedly decreases the parasitic load within their intestines.
The bonnet macaques of Southern India have taken to eating dirt from termite mounds. Why eat dirt from termite mounds? The dirt contains kaolin minerals, the same ingredient found in over the counter anti-diarrhetics such as Kaopectate. Rhesus macaques also partake in geophagy, the eating of dirt, for the same reasons. Clay also contains kaolin, and the rhesus macaques take extra care to only ingest clay-rich soils.
Because their leafy diets contain high levels of cyanide, many monkeys, like the black and white colobus in Clever Monkeys, suffer from indigestion. The discovery by red colobus monkeys that eating charcoal absorbs the cyanide and relieves indigestion was revolutionary. The practice is transmitted from mother to infant by imitation.

This may not be surprising: we tend to consider monkeys smart and human-like. But I wonder how far down it goes, what other animals seek out what we'd call "medicinal" remedies in response to problems.
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Oct14-12, 04:25 PM
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Cats seek out catnip.
Oct15-12, 12:00 AM
Evo's Avatar
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Is it an old wive's myth about bears eating willow bark? (aspirin). I don't have the time to look.

I know dogs and cats eat grass as an emetic.

Oct15-12, 06:26 AM
P: 570
The Practice of Medicine by Monkeys

Quote Quote by zoobyshoe View Post
This may not be surprising: we tend to consider monkeys smart and human-like. But I wonder how far down it goes, what other animals seek out what we'd call "medicinal" remedies in response to problems.

I have read that elephants will travel significant distances to access medicinal plants. But I don't recall where I read that.

Have you seen the video of the elephant painting? She's much better than I am.
Oct27-12, 12:34 PM
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Not remembering exact sources but from science television broadcasts:
  • Chimpanzees ate certain abrasive leaves (forgot of which plant) to help in removing intestinal worms.
  • Parrots (either in Australia or someplace in South America) learned to eat clay from a cliff to neutralize toxic materials from some foods that they ate.

Humans have the advantages of opposable thumbs and better developed speech and language ability allowing for more intricate scientific study and exploration.
Oct29-12, 05:29 AM
P: 103
That's really interesting!

People are identifying this as part of a characteristic of a species, but according to studies by Jordi Sabater Pi and Yukimaru Sugiyama things like this are cultural, one group of chimpanzees does it and another doesn't, and they show each other how to do it it. So that if you meet a chimp in east africa and then another one from west africa you'll find they use the same resources in completely different ways.

They've found evidence that chimps on the Marfil coast have been breaking nuts with the same kind of shaped stone for the past 4000 years.

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