Posted on Monday, July 11th, 2016
Male Great Bustards have been found to eat the normally toxic Blister beetles. It may be that consuming this beetle increases their sexual drive, or makes them more attractive to females.
Blister Beetles (Meloidae), invertebrates that can synthesize high doses of the protein phosphatase inhibitor cantharidin, are ingested preferentially by male Great Bustards (Otis tarda) during their mating season. Previous authors hypothesized that the bustards benefit from antihelminthic and antimicrobial properties of cantharidin. However, given that the ingestion of Blister Beetles is performed particularly in mating season, it may be that the cantharidin has more important direct effects on male behavior, possibly by increasing sexual arousal of males. Thus, we propose that cantharidin consumption by male Great Bustards is a form of self-medication to increase courtship display, willingness to participate in pre-breeding male–male competitions at leks, display intensity, and mating success.
On Otis tarda and Marquis de Sade: what motivates male Great Bustards to consume Blister Beetles (Meloidae)?