A Matabele ant treats the wounds of a friend, whose limbs were bitten off during a fight with termite soldiers. CREDIT (Photo: Erik T. Frank, University of Würzburg)
A species of African ant lives a life so deeply that it has become an expert in wartime triage. In fact, the behavior by the Matabele ants is the first time that non-humans are perceived, “systematic nursing their wounded to help,” per National Geographic.
Researchers explain in a new study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: The ants frequently raid termite colonies, and many of the ant soldiers end up with injured or even lost limbs in the process.
At that point, the injured ants send out pheromones that amount to a call for help, according to the Guardian. They still go as the other ants carry them back to the colony, where the triage takes place.
Other ants to turn intense licking of the wounds, with remarkable success—90% of the injured ants who received this care survived, while 80% of the persons excluded from receiving assistance in the study died.
“We still don’t know whether the ants were just cleaning the wound and removing dirt, as we do with our wounds to prevent infection, or if they are also the application of antimicrobial substances with their saliva,” says principal investigator Erik Frank of Switzerland, at the University of Lausanne, per New Scientist.
An intriguing find: Ants who were severely injured—those who lost multiple limbs, for example—is not possible to send calls for help on the battlefield, perhaps knowing it would be useless, or not to adopt the correct leg-tuck position to be transported to the colony as “medic” ants came.
Only those with lesser injuries were helped. And a funny find: The researchers say that slightly injured ants sometimes behaved “more injured” than they actually were, perhaps in an attempt to get a lift home.
But once past, they have picked up herself and followed the pack home. (See the world of the mutant ants.)
This article originally appeared on Newser: This Would be the Only Non-Human War Medics