Scientists for the first time observed the work of "ant orderlies" who treat and return to the ranks of the wounded and lost limbs soldiers.
Large African ants Megaponera analis are not the best builders and do not breed aphids, they are “a people of warriors”, predators. They specialize in termites, whose nests are raided by large numbers. Groups of several hundred soldiers attack quickly and brutally, carrying away both the larvae and the bodies of adult enemies for devouring.
However, termites are by no means defenseless and desperately defending themselves, and their powerful jaws allow them to inflict very dangerous bites. The loss of one or more limbs for these ants is quite common. Last year, Erik Frank and his co-authors noticed that wounded ants are able to use a special pheromone, calling for help from their comrades, and then other Megaponera can drag them to the anthill to recuperate.
In a new study by Frank and his colleagues, the story of injured ants takes a natural course: in an article published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, scientists also describe the work of "ant orderlies" after the injured were brought to the nest. The video made by scientists shows how the worker "orderly" spends several minutes, "licking" the wounds of the returning soldier.
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Experiments have shown that this procedure really saves lives: ants who lost a limb and did not undergo such a "licking" died in 80 percent of cases within a few hours after being wounded. Conversely, those who were "treated" on time survived with a probability of about 90 percent. Ants directly on the battlefield decide who will be "worthy" to be cured and return to duty, without picking up too seriously injured or those who have already lost their fifth limb. Moreover, mortally injured individuals crawl to the side on their own, without interfering with taking away more easily wounded comrades.
At the same time, scientists admit that they cannot yet say exactly how this "sanitation" works. Perhaps it allows you to simply remove debris and dirt from the wound, or perhaps the "orderlies" additionally treat it with some secret with antimicrobial effect.