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

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 p... Full description

Journal Title: PloS one 2014, Vol.9(10), p.e111057
Main Author: Bravo, Carolina
Other Authors: Bautista, Luis Miguel , García-París, Mario , Blanco, Guillermo , Alonso, Juan Carlos
Format: Electronic Article Electronic Article
Language: English
Subjects:
ID: E-ISSN: 1932-6203 ; DOI: 1932-6203 ; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0111057
Link: http://search.proquest.com/docview/1616476607/?pq-origsite=primo
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recordid: proquest1616476607
title: Males of a strongly polygynous species consume more poisonous food than females.
format: Article
creator:
  • Bravo, Carolina
  • Bautista, Luis Miguel
  • García-París, Mario
  • Blanco, Guillermo
  • Alonso, Juan Carlos
subjects:
  • Animals–Toxicity
  • Cantharidin–Toxicity
  • Disease Resistance–Toxicity
  • Feeding Behavior–Toxicity
  • Female–Toxicity
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions–Toxicity
  • Male–Toxicity
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal–Toxicity
  • Cantharidin
ispartof: PloS one, 2014, Vol.9(10), p.e111057
description: 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.
language: eng
source:
identifier: E-ISSN: 1932-6203 ; DOI: 1932-6203 ; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0111057
fulltext: fulltext
issn:
  • 19326203
  • 1932-6203
url: Link


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