Ants treat comrades injured on the field of battle

Ants treat comrades injured on the field of battle


The Matabele ant’s strict termite diet means many of these ants’ days are spent in dangerous raids on these combative insects. The termites are no pushovers, which leaves many ants wounded after each raid. Researchers recently found that injured ants are often carried back to the nest by their fellow soldiers. Now they have discovered that once back at the nest, the injured ants’ wounds are treated by their nestmates, who spend time grooming the open wounds to clear debris, adding antimicrobial chemicals, and removing any pesky termites. And the treatment works. Ants treated within the first hour had a mortality rate of 10%, while ants that received no treatment had a mortality rate of 80%. Researchers found that lightly injured ants altered their behavior when near a returning column of ants. When nest-mates were close, they slowed their pace dramatically, signaling that they’re injured If the ants passed them by without help, the injured ant immediately started walking faster, following them back to the nest. Ants that lost five or more limbs in a termite battle were rarely helped back to the nest. Normally, when an injured ant is found, it curls up into a ball to allow for easy transport. Heavily injured ants, however, flail their remaining limbs about and spin on their backs, becoming so uncooperative that they’re left behind. Moving forward, researchers hope to find out if this grooming behavior simply prevents infection after termite skirmishes or if it could also be an effective treatment if an infectious disease attacks the colony.

18 thoughts on “Ants treat comrades injured on the field of battle”

  1. amazing. Another great discovery that proves that society isn't social constructs, they are evolutionary traits that all evolved organized species acquire.

  2. Great, but these ants obviously have been wounded on purpose by cutting off their legs and being painted so they can be recognizes. Bit sick.

  3. Very interesting…

    This complements a book I read not too long ago, Intelligence in Nature: An Inquiry into Knowledge, by Jeremy Narby.

    Not to mention, Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm: Beyond the Doors of Perception into the Dreaming of Earth by Stephen Buher – a fascinating read – especially on the Gaia theory…

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