Fur-Rubbing as a Form of Self-Medication in Pongo pygmaeus

Abstract

Orangutans exhibit fur-rubbing possibly for medicinal use. I hypothesize that they use a species of Commelina, an uncommon herb in the peat-swamp forests of Central Kalimantan, Borneo, as either an antibacterial or anti-inflammatory agent. In Central Kalimantan, local indigenous people use the same species as an external medication to treat their arms after a stroke, for muscular pain, and for sore bones and swellings. Thus, the possible convergence of human and orangutan use of Commelina may indicate that orangutans are using it for a similar purpose.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

References

  1. Ahmad, F. B., & Ismail, G. (2003). Medicinal plants used by Kadazandusun communities around the Crocker range. ASEAN Review of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation (ARBEC). January-March.

  2. Baker, M. (1996). Fur rubbing: Use of medicinal plants by capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus). American Journal of Primatology, 38, 263–270.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Birkinshaw, C. R. (1999). Use of millipedes by black lemurs to anoint their bodies. Folia Primatologica, 70, 170–171.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Campbell, C. J. (2000). Fur rubbing behaviour in free-ranging black-handed spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) in Panama. American Journal of Primatology, 51, 205–208.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Clark, C. C., Clark, L., & Clark, L. (1990). “Anting” behavior by common grackles and starlings. Wilson Bulletin, 102, 167–169.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Clark, L., & Mason, J. R. (1985). Use of nest material as insecticidal and anti-pathogenic agents by the European starling. Oecologia, 67, 169–176.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Clark, L., & Mason, J. R. (1987). Olfactory discrimination of plant volatiles by the European starling. Animal Behavior, 35, 227–235.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Dejoseph, M., Taylor, R. S., Baker, M., & Aregullin, M. (2002). Fur-rubbing behaviour of capuchin monkeys. Journal of Academic Dermatology, 46, 924–925.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Duke, J. A., & Ayensu, E. S. (1985). Medicinal plants of China. Michigan: World Health Organisation, Algonac.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Fernald, M. (2007). Plants for a future: Edible, medicinal and useful plants for a healthier world. www.pfaf.org.

  11. Foster, S., & Duke, J. A. (1990). Peterson field guide to medicinal plants. Eastern and central north America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Hauser, D. C. (1964). Anting by gray squirrels. Mammalogy, 45, 136–138.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Huffman, M. A. (1997). Current evidence for self-medication in primates: A multidisciplinary perspective. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, 40, 171–200.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Huffman, M. A. (2001). Self-medicative behaviour in the African great apes: An evolutionary perspective into the origins of human traditional medicine. BioScience, 51, 651–661.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Huffman, M. A. (2003). Animal self-medication and ethno-medicine: Exploration and exploitation of the medicinal properties of plants. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 62, 371–381.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Huffman, M. A. (2007a). Primates self medication. In C. Cambell, A. Fuentes, K. MacKinnon, M. Panger, & S. Bearder (Eds.), Primates in perspective (p. 677–690). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Huffman, M. A. (2007b). Animal as a source of medicinal wisdom in indigenous societies. In M. Bekoff (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of human-animal relationships (p. 434–441). Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Huffman, M. A., & Hatoshi, S. (2004). An experimental study of leaf swallowing in captive chimpanzees: Insight into the origin of self-medicative behaviour and the role of social learning. Primates, 45, 113–118.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Huffmann, M. A., Page, J. E., Sukhdeo, M. V. K., Gotoh, S., Kalunde, M. S., Chandrasiri, T., et al. (1996a). Leaf-swallowing by chimpanzees, a behavioural adaptation for the control of strongyloide nematode infections. International Journal of Primatology, 72, 475–503.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Huffman, M. A., Koshimizu, K., & Ohigashi, H. (1996b). Ethnobotany and zoopharmacognosy of Vernonia amygdalina, a medicinal plant used by humans and chimpanzeea. In P. D. S. Caligari, & D. J. N. Hind (Eds.), Compositae: biology and utilization, Vol. 2 (p. 351–360). Kew: The Royal Botanical Gardens.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Huffman, M. A., & Seifu, M. (1989). Observations on the illness and consumption of a possible medicinal plant Vernonia amygdalina (Del), by chimpanzees in the Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania. Primates, 30, 51–63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Lazano, G. L. (1998). Parasitic stress and self-medication in wild animals. Advances in the Study of Behaviour, 27, 291–317.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Leibal, K. (2007). Gestures in orangutans. In J. Call, & M. Tomasello (Eds.), The gestural communication of apes and monkeys (p. 69–98). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Longino, J. T. (1984). True anting by the capuchin, Cebus capucinus. Primates, 25, 243–245.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Moerman, D. (1998). Native american ethnobotany. Portland, OR: Timber Press.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Rodriguez, E., & Wrangham, R. W. (1993). Zoopharmacognosy: The use of medicinal plants by animals. In K. R. Downum, J. T. Romeo, & H. Stafford (Eds.), Recent advances in phytochemistry. Phytochemical potential of tropical plants, Vol. 27 (p. 89–105). New York: Plenum Press.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Russon, A., Ancrenaz, M., Kanamari, T., Knott, C., Kuze, N., Morrogh-Bernard, H., et al. (2008). Geographic variation in orangutan diet. In S. A. Wich, S. S. Utami Atmoko, T. Mitra Setia, & C. P. van Schaik (Eds.), Orangutans: Geographic variation in behaviour. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Valderrama, X., Robinson, J. G., Attygalle, A. B., & Eisner, T. (2000). Seasonal anointment with millipedes in a wild primate: A chemicaldefense against insects? Journal of Chemical Ecology, 26, 2781–2790.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  29. van Schaik, C. P., Ancrenaz, M., Borgen, G., Galdikas, B., Knott, C. D., Singleton, I., et al. (2003). Orang-utan culture and the evolution of material culture. Science, 299, 102–105.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  30. Verderane, M. P., Falotico, T., Resende, B. D., Labruna, M. B., Izar, P., & Ottoni, E. B. (2007). Anting in semi free-ranging group of Cebus apella. International Journal of Primatology, 28, 47–53.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Walker, E. P. (1940). Grasshopper mouse uses tobacco as an insecticide. Journal of Mammalogy, 21, 221.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Weldon, P. J., Aldrich, J. R., Klun, J. A., Oliver, J. E., & Debboun, M. (2003). Benzoquinones from millipedes deter mosquitoes and elicit self-anointing in capuchin monkeys (Cebus spp.). Naturwissenchaften, 90, 301–304.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  33. Westergaard, D., & Fragaszy, D. (1987). Self treatment of wounds by a capuchin monkey (Cebus apella). Human Evolution, 1, 557–562.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Zito, M., Evans, S., & Weldon, P. J. (2003). Owl monkeys (Aotus spp.) self-anoint with plants and millipedes. Folia Primatologica, 74, 159–161.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

I thank Suwido Limin, Director of CIMTROP and the Rektor of University of Palangkaraya (UNPAR), for sponsoring the project; the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) for permission to undertake research in Indonesia; Simon Husson, Carel van Schaik, Mike Huffman, Anne Russon, David Chivers, and Marina Kenyon for advice and comments; Zery Yeen and Erna Shinta for plant identification and information on how locals use the species; Carly Waterman, Ben Buckley, Kirsten Manduell, and Mark Harrison for supplying me with information from the field; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Great Apes Conservation Fund), Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project, Wildlife Conservation Society, and LSB Leakey Foundation for financial support.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Helen Celia Morrogh-Bernard.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Morrogh-Bernard, H.C. Fur-Rubbing as a Form of Self-Medication in Pongo pygmaeus . Int J Primatol 29, 1059 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-008-9266-5

Download citation

Keywords

  • Commelina
  • fur-rubbing
  • orangutan self-medication