Ants nurse hurt war­riors back to health

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

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 yes­ter­day.

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 be­hav­iour re­duces the fa­tal­ity rate from about 80% of in­jured sol­diers to a mere 10%, re­searchers ob­served.

The study claimed to be the first to show such nurs­ing be­hav­iour in any non­hu­man an­i­mal.

“This is not con­ducted through self­med­i­ca­tion, 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.

Mr Frank had also taken part in a pre­vi­ous study, pub­lished last year, de­scrib­ing the ants’ bat­tle­ground res­cue be­hav­iour.

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.

In the af­ter­math of fight­ing, while some of the ants re­turn home with their dead ter­mite prey, oth­ers scut­tle around the bat­tle­field look­ing for in­jured col­leagues.

“Af­ter the bat­tle, in­jured ants call for help with pheromones,” a chem­i­cal SOS sig­nal pro­duced in a spe­cial gland, said Mr Frank.

Res­cuers use their strong jaws to pick up the wounded and drag them back to the nest for treat­ment.

As­tound­ingly, war­riors that are too se­verely in­jured sig­nal res­cuers not to bother pick­ing them up.

Un­like peers that are less se­ri­ously hurt and lie still to make their saviours’ job eas­ier, ter­mi­nally-wounded ants strug­gle un­til res­cuers give up and move on.


Me­gapon­era ants ad­min­is­ter­ing treat­ment to an in­jured ant.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Thailand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.