Jaap de Roode: How butterflies self-medicate
Jaap de Roode - Biologist
Jaap de Roode studies the ecology and evolution of parasites, focusing on those that attack the monarch butterfly. Full bio
are still the main cause
around the world.
of diseases such as T.B., malaria, HIV,
and even in the United States.
die of seasonal flu.
we are creative. Right?
ourselves against these diseases.
we learn from our experiences
but now we know we're not.
out there that can do it too.
to treat their intestinal parasites.
that other animals can do it too:
sheep, goats, you name it.
is that recent discoveries are telling us
smaller brains can use medication too.
as we all know,
that we have developed
to find new ways to discover drugs
should look at these animals,
how to treat our own diseases.
monarch butterflies for the last 10 years.
for their spectacular migrations
down to Mexico every year,
They get sick like me.
can tell us a lot about drugs
that monarchs get infected with
on the outside of the butterfly
in between the scales of the butterfly.
to the monarch.
before they're even adults.
in the greenhouse growing plants,
are extremely picky eaters.
species of milkweed that they can use,
have cardenolides in them.
but not to monarchs.
can take up the chemicals,
and it makes them toxic
is advertise this toxicity
is grow plants in the greenhouse,
the tropical milkweed,
of these cardenolides.
They had no disease.
some of these milkweeds are medicinal,
in the monarch butterflies,
when they are infected
it was a crazy idea,
what if monarchs can use this?
as their own form of medicine?
started doing experiments.
and gave them a choice:
of each species over their lifetime.
in science, was boring:
Fifty percent was not.
anything for their own welfare.
that can medicate their offspring.
on medicinal milkweed
future offspring less sick?
over several years,
a monarch in a big cage,
a non-medicinal plant on the other side,
that the monarchs lay on each plant.
is always the same.
strongly prefer the medicinal milkweed.
what these females are doing
of their eggs in the medicinal milkweed.
is they actually transmit the parasites
can lay their eggs on medicinal milkweed
future offspring less sick.
important discovery, I think,
something cool about nature,
more about how we should find drugs.
as very simple.
very sophisticated medication.
most of our drugs
at animals to find new drugs.
how to treat stomach upset,
how to treat bloody diarrhea.
though, is to move beyond
and give these guys more credit,
that we tend to think of
with tiny little brains.
can also use medication
we will be treating human diseases
discovered by butterflies,
About the speaker:Jaap de Roode - Biologist
Jaap de Roode studies the ecology and evolution of parasites, focusing on those that attack the monarch butterfly.
Why you should listen
At his lab at Emory University, Jaap de Roode and his team study parasites and their hosts. Some of the questions that intrigue them: If a parasite depends on its host's survival for its own well-being, why do so many of them cause harm? In what ways are hosts able to self-medicate in order to make themselves less desirable to parasites? And are the abilities to harm hosts — and the ability of hosts to self-medicate — favored by natural selection?
The De Roode Lab focuses on the monarch butterfly and its parasites. The team has made a fascinating discovery: that female butterflies infected by a parasite choose to lay their eggs on a specific variety of milkweed that helps their offspring avoid getting sick. De Roode hopes that this insight could lead to new approaches in medications for human beings in the future.
Jaap de Roode | Speaker | TED.com