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
OCT 03, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Oil Slick Washing Ashore in Southern California
OCT 03, 2021
Oil Slick Washing Ashore in Southern California
This weekend, an oil slick was spotted off the coast of southern California, about three miles from Newport Beach, south ...
OCT 18, 2021
Plants & Animals
Reducing Jet Fuel Emissions Using Plant-Based Fuel
OCT 18, 2021
Reducing Jet Fuel Emissions Using Plant-Based Fuel
Airplanes have certainly revolutionized global travel, allowing people to traverse our wide world with relative ease. Bu ...
NOV 04, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Sperm Will Swim in Different Directions to Locate the Egg
NOV 04, 2021
Sperm Will Swim in Different Directions to Locate the Egg
Sperm are basically cells with a tail. It can seem surprising that they are able to navigate and swim with purpose. New ...
NOV 05, 2021
Plants & Animals
Understanding of the Social Lives of Dinosaurs - Herd Behavior Identified for the First time in Argentina
NOV 05, 2021
Understanding of the Social Lives of Dinosaurs - Herd Behavior Identified for the First time in Argentina
Meet Mussaurus patagonicus, an adorable five-foot-tall early sauropod or "long neck"
NOV 13, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Human Waste Contributions to Global Pollution Exceed Expectations
NOV 13, 2021
Human Waste Contributions to Global Pollution Exceed Expectations
River ecosystems receive many inputs from human activities upstream. Rivers bring these inputs out to the ocean, where t ...
NOV 16, 2021
Plants & Animals
Climate Change is Affecting the Shape and Size of Amazon Birds
NOV 16, 2021
Climate Change is Affecting the Shape and Size of Amazon Birds
The Amazon Rainforest is one of the most biodiverse locations on Earth, home to more than 3 million different species. I ...
Loading Comments...