Scientists: Monarch butterflies use medicinal plants to treat offspring


12/10/2010

Monarch butterfly, according to a study conducted by biologists at Emory University, it appears, use medicinal plants to treat diseases of the posterity. New data have been published in the online version of the journal Ecology Letters ".

We have discovered that some species of plants that produce a milky juice, which are the main food of the larvae, reduces the parasitic infection in the Monarch Butterfly "- said Jaap de Rod (Jaap de Roode), promising biologist, head of the analysis." And we also found that infected female butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on plants that will help their offspring get well, suggesting that the royal butterflies developed ability, to treat their offspring. "

Early studies have demonstrated the ability of animals to heal itself, but some scientists believe that this ability to disseminate widely and many other wildlife species. "We believe that our experiments provide the best evidence that the animals are able to heal themselves," - said de Rod.

"The results - a stunning, because the behavior of insects is transmitted through the generations" - says one of the researchers. "This discovery is the behavior of the royal butterfly is surprising."

Information, according to ecologist Mark Hunter (Mark Hunter) from the University of Michigan, who took part in the study may also have implications for human health. Hunter said: "When I look around, I caught a number of different plants that are green pharmacy. But worries me is how little we really know that this pharmacy is useful and what is not. Study of living organisms capable of self-medication helps us to identify which compounds can be investigated with a view to further development of drugs for humans. "

Monarch butterflies are known for their grand annual migration from the United States to Mexico, and the striking combination of orange, black and white on their wings. This bright coloration is a warning sign to birds and other predators that the butterfly may be poisonous.

Caterpillars of this species feed on unlimited quantities of plants, milkweed, including some that contain high levels of kardenolodov. These chemicals do not harm the caterpillars, but make them toxic to predators even after they leave the pupal stage.

Prior research has been implemented in order to find out whether the selected toxic butterfly species of plants, but in order to defend themselves from predators. Biologist de Rhode interested in another fact: whether the choice of butterflies associated with the presence of the parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha in their body. The parasites penetrate the intestinal track and stay there, even when they become adults monarch butterfly. An infected female passes to a new generation of parasites when she lays her eggs. If the adult butterfly leaves the cocoon of being infected with a serious parasitic infection from her body begins to ooze fluid, and she dies. Even if the butterfly survives, she can not fly as well or live as long as uninfected insects.

Experiments in the laboratory biologist de Roda showed that female infected with parasites prefers to lay eggs on the plants is toxic species. Females uninfected butterflies monarchs, however, showed no preference.

Researchers have previously studied types of leaves that primates eat in the woods, but this study with butterflies stresses that insects can point out plants that have medicinal properties in our own garden.

Original: Eurekalert Translation: M. Potter


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