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Males of a strongly polygynous species consume more poisonous food than females.

Bravo C, Bautista LM, García-París M, Blanco G, Alonso JC - PLoS ONE (2014)

Bottom Line: The male-biased consumption suggests that males could use cantharidin to reduce their parasite load and increase their sexual attractiveness.A white, clean cloaca with no infection symptoms (e.g., diarrhoea) is an honest signal of both, resistance to cantharidin and absence of parasites, and represents a reliable indicator of the male quality to the extremely choosy females.Our results do not definitely prove, but certainly strongly suggest that cantharidin, obtained by consumption of blister beetles, acts in great bustards as an oral anti-microbial and pathogen-limiting compound, and that males ingest these poisonous insects to increase their mating success, pointing out that self-medication might have been overlooked as a sexually-selected mechanism enhancing male fitness.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Evolutionary Ecology, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC, Madrid, Madrid, Spain.

ABSTRACT
We present evidence of a possible case of self-medication in a lekking bird, the great bustard Otis tarda. Great bustards consumed blister beetles (Meloidae), in spite of the fact that they contain cantharidin, a highly toxic compound that is lethal in moderate doses. In addition to anthelminthic properties, cantharidin was effective against gastrointestinal bacteria that cause sexually-transmitted diseases. Although both sexes consumed blister beetles during the mating season, only males selected them among all available insects, and ingested more and larger beetles than females. The male-biased consumption suggests that males could use cantharidin to reduce their parasite load and increase their sexual attractiveness. This plausibly explains the intense cloaca display males perform to approaching females, and the meticulous inspection females conduct of the male's cloaca, a behaviour only observed in this and another similar species of the bustard family. A white, clean cloaca with no infection symptoms (e.g., diarrhoea) is an honest signal of both, resistance to cantharidin and absence of parasites, and represents a reliable indicator of the male quality to the extremely choosy females. Our results do not definitely prove, but certainly strongly suggest that cantharidin, obtained by consumption of blister beetles, acts in great bustards as an oral anti-microbial and pathogen-limiting compound, and that males ingest these poisonous insects to increase their mating success, pointing out that self-medication might have been overlooked as a sexually-selected mechanism enhancing male fitness.

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Sensitivity (%; A) and inhibition halo (mm, mean ± SD; B) of bacteria species isolated from faeces after 24 h exposure to cantharidin concentration (control without cantharidin, 1∶100000, 1∶10000, 1∶1000, 1∶100 and 1∶10).
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pone-0111057-g003: Sensitivity (%; A) and inhibition halo (mm, mean ± SD; B) of bacteria species isolated from faeces after 24 h exposure to cantharidin concentration (control without cantharidin, 1∶100000, 1∶10000, 1∶1000, 1∶100 and 1∶10).

Mentions: Bactericide activity of cantharidin varied among species (F5,228 = 17.63, P<0.001) and increased with concentration (F5,258 = 17.37, P<0.001, Fig. 3). Sensitivity (% of samples with an inhibition effect > 6 mm of cantharidin) and inhibition halo were higher in Bacillus sp, Clostridium sp and Kocuria sp. Bacillus sp was the most sensitive species at any concentration, and Staphylococcus lentus the most resistant at all concentrations (Fig. 3). There were significant differences in bactericide activity at different concentrations for all species (P<0.05), except for S. lentus (χ2 = 4.69, d.f. = 5, P = 0.455).


Males of a strongly polygynous species consume more poisonous food than females.

Bravo C, Bautista LM, García-París M, Blanco G, Alonso JC - PLoS ONE (2014)

Sensitivity (%; A) and inhibition halo (mm, mean ± SD; B) of bacteria species isolated from faeces after 24 h exposure to cantharidin concentration (control without cantharidin, 1∶100000, 1∶10000, 1∶1000, 1∶100 and 1∶10).
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4206510&req=5

pone-0111057-g003: Sensitivity (%; A) and inhibition halo (mm, mean ± SD; B) of bacteria species isolated from faeces after 24 h exposure to cantharidin concentration (control without cantharidin, 1∶100000, 1∶10000, 1∶1000, 1∶100 and 1∶10).
Mentions: Bactericide activity of cantharidin varied among species (F5,228 = 17.63, P<0.001) and increased with concentration (F5,258 = 17.37, P<0.001, Fig. 3). Sensitivity (% of samples with an inhibition effect > 6 mm of cantharidin) and inhibition halo were higher in Bacillus sp, Clostridium sp and Kocuria sp. Bacillus sp was the most sensitive species at any concentration, and Staphylococcus lentus the most resistant at all concentrations (Fig. 3). There were significant differences in bactericide activity at different concentrations for all species (P<0.05), except for S. lentus (χ2 = 4.69, d.f. = 5, P = 0.455).

Bottom Line: The male-biased consumption suggests that males could use cantharidin to reduce their parasite load and increase their sexual attractiveness.A white, clean cloaca with no infection symptoms (e.g., diarrhoea) is an honest signal of both, resistance to cantharidin and absence of parasites, and represents a reliable indicator of the male quality to the extremely choosy females.Our results do not definitely prove, but certainly strongly suggest that cantharidin, obtained by consumption of blister beetles, acts in great bustards as an oral anti-microbial and pathogen-limiting compound, and that males ingest these poisonous insects to increase their mating success, pointing out that self-medication might have been overlooked as a sexually-selected mechanism enhancing male fitness.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Evolutionary Ecology, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC, Madrid, Madrid, Spain.

ABSTRACT
We present evidence of a possible case of self-medication in a lekking bird, the great bustard Otis tarda. Great bustards consumed blister beetles (Meloidae), in spite of the fact that they contain cantharidin, a highly toxic compound that is lethal in moderate doses. In addition to anthelminthic properties, cantharidin was effective against gastrointestinal bacteria that cause sexually-transmitted diseases. Although both sexes consumed blister beetles during the mating season, only males selected them among all available insects, and ingested more and larger beetles than females. The male-biased consumption suggests that males could use cantharidin to reduce their parasite load and increase their sexual attractiveness. This plausibly explains the intense cloaca display males perform to approaching females, and the meticulous inspection females conduct of the male's cloaca, a behaviour only observed in this and another similar species of the bustard family. A white, clean cloaca with no infection symptoms (e.g., diarrhoea) is an honest signal of both, resistance to cantharidin and absence of parasites, and represents a reliable indicator of the male quality to the extremely choosy females. Our results do not definitely prove, but certainly strongly suggest that cantharidin, obtained by consumption of blister beetles, acts in great bustards as an oral anti-microbial and pathogen-limiting compound, and that males ingest these poisonous insects to increase their mating success, pointing out that self-medication might have been overlooked as a sexually-selected mechanism enhancing male fitness.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus