Cigarette Habit with Benefits? You be the Judge

Khryss | Published 2017-06-28 13:05
We've all been bombarded with different research justifying how bad (bad is even an understatement) cigarette smoking is. But, have you ever hear of its unusual "benefits"? Don't get too excited though and tell people how they're wrong when they say it's completely unhealthy to our body--it still is. However, for a species of urban bird, it's a different story. Urban house finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) might've harnessed the toxic chemicals, like nicotine, in cigarette butts for pests control. To confirm this, Constantino Macías Garcia at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and his colleagues utilized 32 house nests. A day after eggs hatched in each nest, researchers removed their natural lining and replaced it with artificial felt (to ensure no other parasites were present). They then placed live ticks to 10 of the nests, dead ticks to another 10 and left the last 12 untouched. Results showed that indeed, these birds put cigarette butt fibres to their nest if it contains ticks. ‘‘Ectoparasites such as ticks and mites cause damage to finches – for example, eating their feathers and sucking their blood,” Macías Garcia says. And so, these finches use the fibres to "medicate" their nests from the insect pests. Moreover, they also found that the finches add 40 times heavier cigarette butt materials to their nests when the ticks were alive compared to those with the dead ones. [embed][/embed] “It’s fascinating, and an exciting example of animals being innovative and making use of the materials available to them,” says Steve Portugal at Royal Holloway, University of London. And while nicotine really does have anti-parasite properties, continuous use of these fibres are particularly harmful to the birds. “The butts cause [genetic] damage to finches by interfering with cell division, which we assessed by looking at their red blood cells,” Macías Garcia says. “I think the anti-parasite effects the cigarette butts provide must outweigh any negative problems they cause,” says Portugal. “Alternatively, the genotoxic effects take longer to manifest, and the adult birds aren’t aware of any problem.” Now, is this the part where I tell you to continue smoking and produce more cigarette butts? Guess still not.
Hey! Where are you going?? Subscribe!

Get weekly science updates in your inbox!