Monkey Forest Tales: How monkeys take care of their parasites?

A few days ago while I was in the field, I was looking at some red howler monkeys who have some botflies on their necks. While observing them I notice a male “sucking” a females botfly on her neck. He was licking her open swollen skin. Not sure if the botfly was still in the female’s neck but it seems it already fly out.
Although I have seen botflies red howlers in many places, it seems recently they are having more than before. Local people said that it is related to an increase of palm oil plantations in the area, but probably we’ll need more data to say that. It can be that combined with a lower quality habitat product of the habitat deforestation and fragmentation too.
This observation lead me to another question that I thought would be interesting to talk about: how monkeys take care of their external parasites. Well, I’m sure you have seen many pictures and videos of monkeys grooming themselves or other individuals. Grooming is not only a way for monkeys, and in general for social animals, to reinforce our social relationships. It is also used to extract external parasites and death cell from the skin. While grooming monkeys remove mites, ticks and other external parasites that can live in their skin, including botflies.
Also, some field observations in wild capuchin monkeys have showed that they also rub some plant on their skin as a repellent apparently to reduce mosquito bites, similar to what we do when we apply a chemical repellent on our skin for the same reason.
Internal parasites are another story. There are some theories of the use of soil as a way to eliminate internal parasites from howler monkeys, spider monkeys and woolly monkeys we usually visit salt lick sites, however there are other possible explanations such as the use of soil to reduce toxins found in monkeys food such as leaves. In chimps there has been reports of the use of some plants as possible laxatives that help them to reduce their internal parasites.
Although not definitive answer has been found yet to these questions the increased closeness between monkeys (or apes) to humans due to deforestation and fragmentation is increasing the range of parasites that can be found on both. Careful monitoring on this issue is important for monkeys and human health.
© Copyright Disclaimer. All pictures used on this web page are protected with copyrights to Xyomara Carretero-Pinzón. If you want to use any of these pictures, please leave a message on the website. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s