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Self-medication in Ants

One way to fight diseases is self-medication, which occurs when an organism consumes biologically active compounds to clear, inhibit, or alleviate disease symptoms. This type of behavioral defense mechanism can be crucial in fight against the pathogens and make a big impact on the outcome of host-parasite interaction. Understanding how self-medication is triggered on the physiological level, translated into behavioral response, which leads to further physiological changes via altered diet is challenging but fascinating area of research. We have shown for the first time that ants selectively consume harmful substances upon exposure to a fungal pathogen, yet avoid these in the absence of infection (Bos et al., 2015). Our next step is to investigate self-medication behavior in the more natural setting, by recreating multitrophic interactions in the semi-artificial conditions in the lab.

 

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