- Ants are believed to be only non-humans to sacrifice themselves for comrades
- Wounded ants release a pheromone which attracts others to rush to their aid
- Scientists in Germany watched African Matabele soldier ants go off hunting
It’s a scene familiar from countless war films — the brave soldiers risking their lives to carry an injured comrade to safety, the noble casualty insisting they go on and leave him to die.
But it’s not only human warriors who act so selflessly.
A study has shown that ants do exactly the same in battle.
Ants are believed to be the only non-humans to risk their lives to carry an injured comrade to safety
They also spend minutes licking the wounds of a stricken ant to ward off infection, cutting death rates from 80 to 10 per cent.
Ants are believed to be the only non-humans to do this.
Scientists in Germany watched African Matabele soldier ants as they set off in groups of up to 600 to hunt termites.
A third can expect to lose a leg to a termite’s powerful jaws at some point.
Wounded ants release a pheromone which attracts others to rush to their aid.
Those that lose a single leg can adapt and run as quickly as before within 24 hours.
Wounded ants release a pheromone which attracts others to rush to their aid
On the battlefield they lie still and let the others carry them back to the nest.
But those that lose multiple limbs are unlikely to survive and were seen to struggle and lash out to stop their comrades rescuing them.
‘They simply don’t cooperate with the helpers and are left behind,’ said Dr Erik Frank, head of the study at Julius-Maximilians University, Würzburg.
He said in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B that the licking amounted to a battlefield paramedic treatment.
‘We suppose that they do this to clean the wounds and maybe even apply antimicrobial substances with their saliva.’