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    Author(s): Lucia Neco; Eric Abelson; Asia Brown; Barbara Natterson-Horowitz; Daniel T. Blumstein
    Date: 2019
    Source: Biological Journal of the Linnean Society
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (78.0 KB)


    Self-medication behaviour is the use of natural materials or chemical substances to manipulate behaviour or alter the body’s response to parasites or pathogens. Self-medication can be preventive, performed before an individual becomes infected or diseased, and/or therapeutic, performed after an individual becomes infected or diseased. We summarized all available reports of self-medication in mammals and reconstructed its evolution. We found that reports of self-medication were restricted to eutherian mammals and evolved at least four times independently. Self-medication was most commonly reported in primates. Detailed analyses of primates suggest that self-medication is a life-history trait associated with body size, absolute brain size and longevity, but we found no support for the hypothesis that self-medication evolved to reduce the costs of social living. Large, longer-lived species might thus benefit uniquely from self-medication.

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    Neco, Lucia C; Abelson, Eric S; Brown, Asia; Natterson-Horowitz, Barbara; Blumstein, Daniel T. 2019. The evolution of self-medication behaviour in mammals. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 128: 373–378.


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    life history, longevity, self-medication, wildlife disease

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