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Red frontal lemur

Lathering up with orange goo from millipede guts might relieve infections and expel parasites in lemurs

A few years ago, a group of researchers stumbled upon a female lemur engaging in a bizarre ritual. In her left hand was a millipede, freshly plucked from the forest floor. As the scientists watched, the lemur munched briefly on the millipede’s body, gnawing greedily until it oozed orange—and proceeded to rub the saliva-slicked drippings vigorously over her genitals, anus and tail. After a well-earned break, she concluded the ordeal by gulping down the millipede’s spent body—but this encore act seemed to play second fiddle to her slathering shenanigans.


Red-Fronted lemurs in Madagascar that were observed is said to be the first documented case of millipede being digested for possible medicinal purposes. The lemurs are believed to be self-medicating against intestinal parasites that can cause itching or weight loss.  The parasites also lay eggs on the lemurs’ backsides causing itchy rashes

To deter hungry predators, millipedes secrete toxic chemicals to avoid being eaten but lemurs appear to seek these critters for BENZOQUINONE, a substance with insecticidal and antimicrobial properties. By applying a DIY anointment of drool and millipede juice, primates may be exploiting the medicinal properties of this substance which are known to act as an insect repellent.

Scientists studying other primate species believe benzoquinones might protect against mosquito-borne diseases like malaria or yellow fever. Even though these same bug-killing chemicals can be toxic for the primates if ingested in high doses, the short-term payoff of forestalling infection is worth the risk.

As they are continually disturbed, the millipedes secrete more chemicals and the lemurs use this to their advantage vigorously rubbing and chewing the millipedes to extract anti-parasite medicine. It is still unclear how these lemurs are able to digest millipede toxins

But in any case, they know how to BEAT THE ITCH

Sources:

 Smithsonian.Com

SpringerLink.com

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