Why Chimps Eat Dead Wood and Other Plants

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Image: A chimpanzee mother and her infant. (Courtesy of Dr. Mike Wilson, Jane Goodall Institute, via Science-AAAS).

Chimpanzees self-medicate, suggests a new study in the journal Physiology & Behavior, which also mentions many of their consumed plants with medicinal properties. Here is the list:            

Aneilema aequinoctiale              leaves        de-wormer

Antiaris toxicaria                       leaves        anti-tumor

(Wikimedia Commons Image)

Bosqueia phoberos                     leaves        anti-bacterial

Chaetacme aristata                    bark           anti-bacterial

Cordia abyssinica                        pith            anti-malarial, anti-tuberculosis, anti-bacterial   

Diospyros abyssinica                   leaves        multiple biological activities    

Ficus capensis                            leaves        anti-bacterial and multiple biological activities

Ficus exasperata                        unripe fruits    de-worming agent, reduces stomach acids

Ficus natalensis                          bark            anti-bacterial

Ficus stipulifera                         leaves        anti-malarial, anti-bacterial

Ficus urceolaris /Ficus asperifolia     leaves        dewormer

Illigera pentaphylla                    leaves        anti-bacterial, anti-malarial

Jasminum abyssinicum                leaves        de-wormer

Lepisanthes senegalensis             leaves        anti-malarial

Mimusops bagshawei                   leaves        anti-malarial

Monodora myristica                     leaves        de-wormer, anti-malarial

Myrianthus arboreus                    leaves        anti-malarial

Neoboutonia macrocalyx              dead wood    many biological properties

Olea welwitschii                          leaves        anti-malarial, other properties

Parinari excelsa                           leaves        numerous biological properties

Phytolacca dodecandra                unripe fruits    anti-viral, spermicidal and more

Psychotria mahonii                      root            anti-malarial

Pterygota mildbraedii                  leaves        anti-bacterial

Rothmannia urcelliformis             leaves        anti-bacterial

Rubia cordifolia                           leaves        de-wormer

(Wikimedia Commons Image)

Solanecio manii                           pith            several biological properties

Teclea nobilis                              root            anti-malarial

Trichilia rubescens                      leaves         anti-bacterial and more

 

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Lead author Shelly Masi of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and her team point out that chimpanzees and other primates learn to consume such plants by copying the eating habits of other older and highly ranked individuals. The chimps may not directly link the consumption with treating a particular illness, but they probably just know that this plant has some value because so-and-so ate it and is doing well.

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While some of these plants are also used as medicines by humans, many can be toxic. Antiaris toxicaria, for example, is also utilized as a dart poison.

Therefore, it has to be said that you should not consume these mentioned plants without expert guidance. That's one reasonmedical research is so important. Scientists can isolate the effective medicinal compounds of such plants while removing their more dangerous agents.

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