Treating others may not be the only human being

A female chimpanzee that applies insects to the scars on the face of a male adult chimpanzee.Credits: Tobias Deschner / Ozouga Chimpanzee Project

The chimpanzees of the Lecambo community in Gabon, West Africa are not surprising.First of all, they Kill and eat turtles, Is different from other chimpanzee communities. Now they can be seen showing another unique behavior. This is a behavior never seen before, despite years of in-depth research.

In their new study published in the journal Current biologyResearchers explained how they saw Lecambo Chimpanzee Apply insects To their own open wounds, and even more surprisingly to the wounds of other community members.

Even by itself, healing wounds with insects is a breakthrough observation, but until now, with the exception of humans, no other animal has been seen to heal other people’s wounds.

Humans have been Use local remedies As a medicine that has been passed down for generations in society around the world for at least 5,000 years (roots, leaves, bark, other animals, etc.).

There are some Use of insects Even in traditional human medicine.For example, leeches are used Clean the woundSlugs and snails to treat inflammation, spider webs to repair wounds, termite scissors to inject drugs under the skin.

Perhaps such cultural use of plants and animals to treat injuries and illnesses could have been inherited millions of years ago from common ape-like ancestors?

Animal self-medication

Like humans Wildlife self-medication It’s not unusual. Individuals of various species, including chimpanzees, choose specific plant-based foods that contain chemicals that are known to treat infections by parasites.

for example, Caterpillar Ingesting plant toxins when infected with parasitic flies, gorilla Consume a wide variety of plants, including known compounds important in traditional human medicine.

Some species, like tree ants, Predict infection, Add antibacterial resin from nearby trees to the nest. This reduces the colony’s exposure to microorganisms.

But to date, this widespread behavior has mostly focused on plant material self-medication. The use of insects on wounds has never been observed.

Breakthrough chimpanzee

During the 15 months beginning November 2019, the team observed 76 open wounds in 22 chimpanzees. There were 22 insect application events by 10 different chimpanzees. Nineteen times, various individuals were seen applying insects to one of their wounds.

They caught insects from the air, squeezed between their lips and stuck. Then they placed it on the exposed surface of the wound and moved it with their fingertips or lips. Finally, they took the insects out of the wound.

But the use of insects wasn’t the only one. In the astonishing act of “allocare” (taking care of others), mothers are seen applying insects to the wounds of their offspring, and two more adult chimpanzees injure another community member. I was treated.

Why it’s important

Researchers do not yet know which insect was used. Chemical properties Or, most importantly, is there a health benefit to applying them to the wound. But what they know is that chimpanzee behavior is abnormal for a variety of reasons.

First, this is likely to be an example of allogeneic dosing behavior (medication to others) in apes, which has never been seen before.

The author considers this to be a possible prosocial behavior. This is defined as an action that benefits another individual. Humans are characterized by a tendency to volunteer, share, and collaborate, but it is unclear whether other species, especially closely related cousins, also exhibit this type of behavior.

There is Evidence of prosocial behavior Captive bonobo (our other closest Living relatives) During experimental work, if you see unfamiliar, non-group members helping to get food.

But until now, its presence in chimpanzees Controversy.. Current research is undoubtedly pushing the needle towards sharing some prosocial tendencies with humans.

Second, self-medication has long been associated Ingestion of plants It has a specific medicinal effect. Recent studies have shown that The orangutan was displayed Saliva is mixed with anti-inflammatory plant leaves and applied to different parts of the body. This is the first localized case recorded. Self-medication With animals.

However, scientists have never seen chimpanzees (or any animal) essentially “cure” a wound or apply another species to the wound.

In that sense, observations highlight what these chimpanzees are doing and how they are doing. Commonly known as “anointing”, rubbing a substance, object, or substance on the surface of the body has been observed in many species.

Mammals are especially known to rub against trees, rocks, fruits and arthropods. Pick up a specific scentAnd the bird captured, Rub the millipede on the feathers,probably Deter ticks..

In primates, anointing behavior is also widespread. It is not yet clear if the lecampo chimpanzee is actually rubbing insects.But because they are targeting open on their own scratchIt suggests that it is likely an act of medicine.

What’s next?

The identification and analysis of the insect species used by the Rekambo chimpanzees is key to clarifying the purpose and efficacy of this newly reported dosing behavior. Perhaps it will be revealed that Gabon insects have wound healing or anti-inflammatory properties similar to the plants used by orangutans.

Finally, Chimpanzee cultural diversity, Lecambo chimpanzees stand out for their uniqueness. That raises the question, what else do these chimpanzees have for us?

Chimpanzees apply insects to wounds, is this a potential drug use?

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Treating others may not be the only human being

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