Planta Med 2023; 89(14): 1282
DOI: 10.1055/s-0043-1773829
Animal Healthcare and Veterinary Phytotherapy Pre-Congress Symposium
Sunday 2nd July 2023

Keynote Lecture “Porcupines, plants and pathogens: an overview of the multi-disciplinary evidence for self-medication in the crested porcupine and other rodent species”

Michael A Huffman
1   Wildlife Research Center, Kyoto University, Inuyama, Japan
Emiliano Mori
2   Consiglio Nazionale Delle Ricerche, Istituto Di Ricerca Sugli Ecosistemi Terrestri, Sesto Fiorentino, Italy
Andrea Viviano
2   Consiglio Nazionale Delle Ricerche, Istituto Di Ricerca Sugli Ecosistemi Terrestri, Sesto Fiorentino, Italy
› Author Affiliations

    Dietary selection is an important process for the maintenance of health homeostasis. From the potential plants available in one’s environment, choices are made to assure a proper balance of nutrients for energy, growth, maintenance, reproduction, and sometimes even their nesting material. Animals also select such plants for their medicinal properties. This rapidly growing field of research is known as animal self-medication. An overview of the ethnomedicinal, behavioural and ecological evidence suggests that rodents in the wild are no exception. We review our research on the dietary habits of populations of crested porcupine (Hystrix cristata). In Central Italy we identified the seasonal ingestion of medicinal food species with antiparasitic properties. The seasonal ingestion of certain plant items coincides with peaks in parasite infection levels. In East Africa, self-medicating porcupine have been the inspiration for the discovery of a now widely used ethno-antibiotic treatment. It is also suggested that wood rats (Neotoma fuscipes) in North America and harvest mice in Japan place aromatic leaves (Umbellularia californica, Artemisia princeps) in their nests for the fumigation of nest-borne ectoparasites, supporting the growing body of evidence for the use of plants with antiparasitic benefits in wildlife species. The study of self-medicative behaviour and the plants used by animals in the wild is a promising bio-rational for expanding and advancing the use of phytotherapy in a veterinary setting.


    Publication History

    Article published online:
    16 November 2023

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