Chimpanzees use insects to heal their wounds

(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers have seen for the first time how chimpanzees use simple medicine to treat open wounds.

A team of researchers from the Ozouga Chimpanzee Project first saw a mother chimpanzee in Loango National Park in Gabon, Africa, press her mouth and apply flying insects to the wound on her cub’s paw. This action was repeatedly performed by an adult chimpanzee named Susie.

Experts can’t say exactly what kind of insect Susie used, but they’re convinced it could have been used to clean a wound or even relieve pain. According to the researchers, this is a completely new behavior of primates. Previously, this behavior has not been observed in chimpanzees.

The surprising discovery is published in a Current Biology article by a group of zoologists from the University of Osnabrück (Germany) and the Ozouga Chimpanzee project.

The researchers observed the lives of 45 chimpanzees, among which several adults crushed and applied insects to their wounds or other members of the group. Within 15 months, zoologists have seen this 22 times.

This behavior is very reminiscent of self-medication. This behavior occurs in nature. Many animals, such as wild red and green macaws, eat clay to improve digestion, or pregnant elephants, who may eat some leaves to induce labor.

However, scientists say no one has ever seen animals use insects to heal an open wound before. Apparently, chimpanzees have come up with a much more creative method. The injured chimpanzees were overjoyed to have their peers caring for them.

“People use many types of insects as a cure for disease,” comments Simone Pika, a cognitive biologist at the University of Osnabrück in Germany and lead researcher. “There have been studies showing that insects may have antibiotic, antiviral, and anthelmintic functions.”


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