When Chimpanzees Practice Medicine

Scientists have released a video of a chimpanzee mother using an insect to treat a wound on her son’s foot. Mom is an endangered female central chimpanzee named Suzee and her son is Sia. After inspection, Suzee snatched an insect from the underside of a leaf, then squeezed it in her mouth and applied the crushed remains to her son’s wound.

This behavior has never been seen before. The video was recorded by Alessandra Mascaro, a volunteer at the Loango Chimpanzee Project in the rainforest of Gabon. In the 15 months following the recording, researchers documented the behavior in 22 chimps from the group of about 45 individuals. They found 19 instances of chimps applying insects to their bodies, and two occasions where injured chimps were nursed by their fellows.

The researchers don’t yet know what insects are being used, but they think the chimps might be grabbing some sort of winged insects as antibiotics, antivirals, or as a means to soothe pain and reduce inflammation. Chimp wounds can sometimes be several inches wide, and are frequently inflicted during conflicts between groups or within the group itself.

“It is just fascinating to see that after decades of research on wild chimpanzees they still surprise us with unexpected new behaviours,” said Tobias Deschner, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

The findings were published Feb. 7 in the journal Current Biology.

Taken from “Amazing Video Shows a Mom Chimp Medicating Her Child’s Wound With Insects” by Ben Turner at https://www.livescience.com/chimps-treating-wounds?.

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