Image of the Day: Medicinal Millipedes

Certain lemurs in the forests of Madagascar eat millipedes to protect themselves from parasitic infections of the gut.

Sukanya Charuchandra
Jul 31, 2018
A red-fronted lemur (Eulemur rufifrons) chews on millipedes in the Kirindy Forest of Madagascar. 

Madagascar’s red-fronted lemurs (Eulemur rufifrons) eat millipedes to both prevent and cure infections caused by some parasites, according to a study published in Primates yesterday (July 30). 

“Eating millipede secretions may be a way of self-medication,” Louise Peckre, a doctoral student at the Leibniz Institute for Primate Research in Germany, says in a statement.  

Besides eating the creatures, the primates also applied munched-up millipedes to the areas surrounding their genitalia and anuses and to their tails. Peckre and colleagues  believe the millipedes produce a compound called benzoquinone, known to repel mosquitoes, which may help the lemurs keep parasites out of their gut and away from their anuses.

L.R. Peckre et al., “Potential self-medication using millipede secretions in red-fronted lemurs: combining anointment and ingestion for a joint action against gastrointestinal parasites?,” Primates, doi:10.1007/s10329-018-0674-7, 2018.