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.