Medical care for wounded ants

ScienceDaily | 2/13/2018 | Staff
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Erik T. Frank, Marten Wehrhan and Karl Eduard Linsenmair from Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany, made this astonishing discovery. Their results have been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. No other insects are known to dress the wounds of their comrades. The JMU biologists even believe that such behaviour is unique in the entire animal kingdom.

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.

Ants - Resistance - Termite - Soldiers - Jaws

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.

But the Würzburg biologists dug deeper: What happens once the injured ants are back in the nest? The ants treat the open wounds of their injured fellows by "licking" them intensively, often for several minutes. "We suppose that they do this to clean the wounds and maybe...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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