Document Type


Publication Date



Gastrointestinal helminths challenge ruminants in ways that reduce their fitness. In turn, ruminants have evolved physiological and behavioral adaptations that counteract this challenge. Ruminants display anorexia and avoidance behaviors, which tend to reduce the incidence of parasitism. In addition, ruminants appear to learn to self-medicate against gastrointestinal parasites by increasing consumption of plant secondary compounds with antiparasitic actions. This selective feeding improves health and fitness. Here, we review the evidence for self-medication in ruminants, propose a hypothesis to explain self-medicative behaviors (based on post-ingestive consequences), and discuss mechanisms (e.g., enhanced neophilia, social transmission) that may underlie the ontogeny and spread of self-medicative behaviors in social groups. A better understanding of the mechanisms that underlie and trigger self-medication in parasitized animals will help scientists devise innovative and more sustainable management strategies for improving ruminant health and well-being. © 2014 J.J. Villalba et al., published by EDP Sciences.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)