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
MAR 13, 2020
Health & Medicine
MAR 13, 2020
Congressional Committee Advances Medical Marijuana Bills for Veterans
The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee recently advanced two bills relating to veteran use of medical marijuana.&nb ...
MAR 22, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
MAR 22, 2020
The Evolutionary Origins of the Human Hand
An ancient fish fossil has given researchers new insight into how fish fins eventually evolved into human hands.
APR 05, 2020
Plants & Animals
APR 05, 2020
Seven New Peacock Spider Species Discovered in Australia
Animal researchers spend much of their time outdoors as they explore the world in the name of science. That said, it may ...
APR 16, 2020
Earth & The Environment
APR 16, 2020
Are monarch butterflies stressed out?
Perhaps in your life you have participated in a project involving monarch butterflies. I can still remember being surpri ...
APR 29, 2020
Earth & The Environment
APR 29, 2020
Examining Plastic Pollution in Antarctica
While it’s not surprising that plastic pollution is reaching Antarctica, it is undoubtedly alarming considering th ...
MAY 13, 2020
Health & Medicine
MAY 13, 2020
Studying Skates for the Future of Cartilage Therapy
According to the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) at the University of Chicago, nearly 25% of Americans have arthritis ...
Loading Comments...