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Tue Feb 13, 2018, 09:05 PM

Soldier ants rescue and treat wounded comrades

Casualty rates in termite war are dramatically reduced by insect ‘paramedics’.

Press Association
Last updated:14 February 2018 - 12.50am

A “Band of Brothers” species of warring ant has been observed rescuing injured comrades from the field of battle, carrying them to safety, and tending their wounds.

The extraordinary behaviour of African Matabele ants is thought to be unique in the animal kingdom.

It results in a dramatic reduction in casualty rates as the ants carry out high-risk raids on termite foraging sites.

Scientists found that help from the “medics” cut the death rate of injured ants from 80% to just 10%.


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Reply Soldier ants rescue and treat wounded comrades (Original post)
Judi Lynn Feb 2018 OP
Judi Lynn Feb 2018 #1
Judi Lynn Feb 2018 #2
Loki Liesmith Feb 2018 #3
eppur_se_muova Feb 2018 #4

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Feb 13, 2018, 09:07 PM

1. Following Battles, Ant Medics Treat Their Wounded Comrades

By Charles Choi | February 13, 2018 6:00 pm

Ants that hunt termites can risk getting grievously injured in battle, but that doesn’t mean its the end of the line.

In a newly published study, scientists observed ant medics caring for their wounded comrades, which may be the first scientifically documented example of such medical care in the animal kingdom outside humanity.

The African ant Megaponera analis specializes in hunting termites. After scouts of this ant species find termite feeding sites, the scouts lead columns of 200 to 600 fighters back to capture and kill termite prey.

“The colony only has between 10 to 20 scouts at a time looking for food, and these scouts make all the important decisions about where to forage and how large the army should be that goes out,” said study lead author Erik Frank, a behavioral ecologist who carried out this research at the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg in Germany. “Thus 1 percent of the colony is responsible for the success of the other 99 percent.”


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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Feb 13, 2018, 09:11 PM

2. Ants care for wounded comrades by licking their wounds clean

14 February 2018

By Jasmin Fox-Skelly

A species of ant has become the first known non-human animal to tend the wounds of its fellows. “Nurse” ants lick the wounds of fallen comrades, and this helps them survive.

Matabele ants (Megaponera analis) live dangerous lives. Several times a day, parties of 200-600 soldier ants set out to hunt termites, dragging them from their nests and carrying them home. The termites fight back, and their powerful jaws can administer lethal bites, so Matabele ants frequently lose one or more limbs.

In 2017, Erik Frank, then at the University of Würzburg, Germany reported that Matabele ants routinely carry their wounded back to the nest. This is odd, as social insects usually treat each other as expendable. The injured ants could “ask” for help by releasing a pheromone, which caused other ants to pick them up and carry them.

In a new study Frank, now at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, and his colleagues have filmed what happens inside the nest when the injured are brought in. The footage shows “nurse” ants spend several minutes licking their fallen comrades’ wounds.


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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Feb 13, 2018, 09:11 PM

3. Best not to think of ants as individual organisms

The hive is the best model for the ant organism. This observation seems like a sort of immune system.

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Response to Loki Liesmith (Reply #3)

Tue Feb 13, 2018, 11:25 PM

4. Ayup. Injured organism licking its own wounds.

Since the workers and soldiers *never* pass on their DNA, a trait which favors the colony over non-breeding individuals can easily be a survival trait for the gene line, which is passed on only by the queen and short-lived males. Really quite distinct from altruistic behavior.

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