FEB 15, 2018 8:09 AM PST

These Ants Nurse Wounded Comrades Back to Good Health

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

When people get hurt, others often come to their rescue with medical attention. On the other hand, this type of behavior isn’t common in the animal kingdom. Instead, it’s every man for himself.

In a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers underscore novel insight into a particularly rare exception: the African Matabele ant.

An ant providing medical care to another by way of wound-licking.

Image Credit: Erik T. Frank

What sets these ants apart from the rest of the animal kingdom? Primarily how they nurse their wounded comrades back to good health rather than leaving them to deal with their own problems. Consequently, this also reduces wound-related mortality rates in the species.

The ants tend to their wounded brethren by partaking in “intense licking” sessions. The continued licking prevents infections and keeps the open wound sanitized so it can heal properly.

"This is not conducted through self-medication, as is known in many animals, but rather through treatment by nestmates which, through intense licking of the wound, are likely able to prevent an infection," elucidated study co-author Erik Frank at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

The following video footage demonstrates how this treatment system works:

Related: Fire ants band together during extreme flooding situations

African Matabele ants fancy termites as treats. When the ants embark on termite nest raids, they encounter termite soldiers that attempt to defend the nest. The battle always leaves a handful of wounded ants behind, and they use pheromones to communicate with other ants as a cry for help.

Rescuer ants then recognize the pheromone-based signals and begin pouring in to tend to the wounded. They pick the wounded up, return them home, and start treating them with the aforementioned licking session.

It’s a rather exciting discovery because these ants are some of the first non-human life forms found to care for others in their time of need. Many questions remain about how the ants treat others’ wounds, but researchers will need to conduct follow-up studies to answer them.

Source: Ars Technica, Phys.org

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
DEC 25, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 25, 2019
Perfect for Urban Farming: Gene-Edited Tomatoes that Grow like Grapes
A team of researchers from New York’s Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have created a new strain of tomatoes that can grow from bushes rather than vines...
JAN 03, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 03, 2020
Breathalyzers for Cannabis Users?
With Cannabis use on the rise across the country, scientists and law enforcement are working to develop technology to determine when a driver is stoned and...
JAN 07, 2020
Plants & Animals
JAN 07, 2020
Baby Penguins Are Often Bullied to Death by Adults
Most people envision penguins as fun, happy-go-lucky birds residing in the Earth’s chilly polar regions, but that’s not always the case. In fac...
JAN 26, 2020
Plants & Animals
JAN 26, 2020
Iguanas Are Falling From Trees in Florida
The state of Florida has endured an exceptionally chilly Winter season this time around, and some of the state’s wild critters are taking notice. Whi...
FEB 02, 2020
Plants & Animals
FEB 02, 2020
Noasaurid Fossil Confirms Cretaceous Existence on Australia
A class of two-legged carnivorous dinosaur dubbed noasaurids are said to have existed in later half of the Cretaceous Era, but our understanding of their g...
FEB 09, 2020
Plants & Animals
FEB 09, 2020
Lightning Strike Kills Four Endangered Mountain Gorillas in Uganda
While perusing the confines of the Mgahinga National Park in Uganda earlier this month, a team of conservationists were unlucky enough to discover four dec...
Loading Comments...