Ants nurse wounded war­riors back to health

Kuwait Times - - Front Page -

PARIS: African Mata­bele ants dress the wounds of com­rades in­jured dur­ing hunt­ing raids and nurse them back to health, ac­cord­ing to an “as­ton­ish­ing” dis­cov­ery re­ported Wed­nes­day. After col­lect­ing their wounded from the bat­tle­field and carrying them back home, nest­mates be­come medics, mass­ing around pa­tients for “in­tense lick­ing” of open wounds, ac­cord­ing to a study in the jour­nal Pro­ceed­ings of the Royal So­ci­ety B.

This be­hav­ior re­duces the fa­tal­ity rate from about 80 per­cent of in­jured sol­diers to a mere 10 per­cent, re­searchers ob­served. The study claimed to be the first to show such nurs­ing be­hav­ior in any non-hu­man an­i­mal. “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,” said study co-au­thor Erik Frank.

He con­trib­uted to the re­search when he was at the Julius Max­i­m­il­ian Univer­sity of Wuerzburg in Ger­many, and con­tin­ues his work at the Univer­sity of Lau­sanne in Switzer­land. Frank had also taken part in a pre­vi­ous study, pub­lished last year, de­scrib­ing the ants’ bat­tle­ground res­cue be­hav­ior. The new re­search fo­cused on what hap­pens to the in­jured back in the nest. Mata­beles, one of the world’s largest ant species, are fierce war­riors and at­tack even hu­mans with their fe­ro­cious bite. Named after South­ern Africa’s feared Mata­bele war­rior tribe, the in­sects hunt ter­mites big­ger than them­selves, at­tack­ing their feed­ing sites in col­umn for­ma­tions of 200-600 in­di­vid­u­als. This hunt­ing method causes many ants to get hurt, of­ten hav­ing their legs bit­ten off by ter­mite sol­diers.

AFP

A hand­out photo pro­vided by the Royal So­ci­ety on Fe­bru­ary 12, 2018 shows Me­gapon­era ants in­ves­ti­gat­ing the in­juries of an­other ant. —

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