A health benefit of cigarettes!: Finches apparently put cigarette butts in their nests to repel ticks

Why Evolution Is True

Well, we all know about the deleterious effects of smoking, but it actually has a salubrious effects on some birds—house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus), at least in Mexico City. Mexicans smoke more than do Americans, or so I’ve observed informally in Mexico, so cigarette butts are common. Montserrat Súarez-Rodríguez and a colleague at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México observed that both house finches and house sparrows (Passer domesticus) added cigarette butts—or rather, the fibers from them—to the linings of their nests, even though the butts have toxic nicotine in them.

Based on earlier work showing that other species of birds put toxic foliage in their nests to repel parasites, Monserrat Súarez-Rodríguez and her colleague Constantino Macías Garcia suspected that the cigarette butts might have a similar function in finches. Alternatively, the butt fibers could simply serve as insulation for the chicks. They tested these hypotheses, and their…

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