Scientists have come to the remarkable conclusion that one species of ant actually rescues warriors by licking their wounds.
Ants may seem like mindless pests to some, but a new study has found that there is a lot more to these fascinating societies than meets the eye. Scientists have discovered that a species of ants called Africa Matabele come to the aid of warrior ants who are wounded and lick their wounds to help heal them.
This is extremely important to the species, as it turns out, as researchers found that 80 percent of ants who did not have their wounds licked eventually died from their wounds, and of those that received the healing licks, just 10 percent did not survive. Scientists detailed their findings in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
This is an extremely rare behavior in the animal world, scientists say. But it is essential to Matabele ants, which are particularly susceptible to injury. They are found throughout sub-Saharan Africa and have to frequently raid termite nests in order to survive, which means lots of battles.
“Matabele ants have a high risk of getting injured every day: The insects, which are widely distributed in Sub-Saharan Africa, set out to raid termites two to four times a day. Proceeding in long files of 200 to 600 animals, they raid termites at their foraging sites, killing many workers and hauling the prey back to their nest where they are ultimately eaten,” reads the statement from the University of Wurzburg. “However, the ants meet fierce resistance from the well-armoured termite soldiers that are very adept at using their powerful jaws to fend off the attackers. Injury and mortality among the ants occur during such combats. For example, the ants frequently lose limbs that are bitten off by termite soldiers. When an ant is injured in a fight, it calls its mates for help by excreting a chemical substance which makes them carry their injured comrade back to the nest. Erik T. Frank already described this rescue service in 2017.”