By: 
Mark D. Hunter, University of Michigan, USA
Host: 
Maartje Klapwijk, Ecology, SLU
Location: 
Tammsalen, Ecology, Ultuna
Date: 
2015-06-02
Time: 
13:00 - 14:00
Plants as Drugs: Self-Medication in Animal Populations

Plants produce a wide variety of potent chemical defenses.  Some chemical defenses are broadly “antibiotic” and are available for use by other organisms to help mitigate the effects of disease.  In the same way that humans exploit many plants for their medicinal properties, so too do other kinds of animal, ranging from insects to primates.  Given the prevalence of disease in natural populations, and its deleterious effects on host populations, we should expect sophisticated self-medication behavior to have arisen in many animal species.  This presentation describes self-medication in animals, with a focus on monarch butterflies.  Recently, we have established that cardenolides from milkweed plants serve to protect monarch butterflies from a protozoan parasite in the phylum Apicomplexa (the same phylum as malaria). I discuss our results within the context of the emerging discipline of “pharm-ecology” and the need to conserve the “great green pharmacy.”