Chimpanzees Use Crushed Insects As A Possible Remedy To Heal Their Wounds

Researchers from Osnabrück University, Germany, and the Ozouga Chimpanzee Project followed a group of about 45 chimpanzees to Gabon’s Loango National Park to study them. During this study, researchers noticed unusual behavior in primates. The chimpanzees applied insects to their wounds and those of their congeners.

According to scientists, this behavior could be a form of medical care in these animals. If so, it will be the first time chimpanzees have been observed using animal matter to heal themselves.

Although insects have never been used in this way before, this is not the first time that our close cousins ​​have used creativity in natural medicine.

Unusual behavior

According to Simone Pika, cognitive biologist, self-medication has been observed in several animal species such as insects, reptiles, birds and mammals. For example, chimpanzees and bonobos have been found to swallow anthelmintic plants or chew bitter leaves with certain chemical properties to fight intestinal parasites.

The discovery of the use of insects as medicine was fortuitous. While observing the animals, the researchers did indeed notice that some individuals were doing something unusual to heal the wounds.

For Alessandra Mascaro, one of the researchers involved in the study, the first sighting was of a chimpanzee mother named Suzee grabbing something from the air, putting it between her lips, and then applying it to the wound of his son Sia.

Similar behaviors were also observed in a male named Freddy. By viewing the images, the scientists concluded that the chimpanzees were probably catching flying insects. By continuing their observations, they were able to record 22 similar events.

Of the instances of chimpanzee use of insects, the most notable was when an adult female named Carol grabbed a bug and handed it to an adult male named Littlegrey. This one had a laceration in the tibia. Carol and a few chimpanzees then used the insect in an apparent gesture of treating the wound.

Insects with medicinal properties?

Since 1400 BCE, humans have used insects for therapeutic purposes, and this practice still persists in some parts of the globe. With regard to chimpanzees, it is still unclear whether the use of insects has medicinal properties or if it is only a culture within the group.

The team now wants to continue its work in order to better understand this new behavior. According to Tobias Deschner, primatologist and lead author, they will now investigate the potential benefits of this surprising behavior.


Leave a Comment