An ant that selectively amputates the infected limbs of wounded sisters

By Around the Web


(EURASIA REVIEW) – Saving lives through surgery is no longer exclusive to humans. In a study published in the journal Current Biology, scientists detail how Florida carpenter ants, a common, brown species native to its namesake, selectively treat the wounded limbs of fellow nestmates—either by wound cleaning or amputation. When experimentally testing the effectiveness of these “treatments,” not only did they aid in recovery, but the research team found the ants’ choice of care catered to the type of injury presented to them.

“When we’re talking about amputation behavior, this is literally the only case in which a sophisticated and systematic amputation of an individual by another member of its species occurs in the animal Kingdom,” says first author Erik Frank, a behavioral ecologist from the University of Würzburg.

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In this study, two types of leg injuries were analyzed, lacerations on the femur and those on the ankle-like tibia. All femur injuries were accompanied by initial cleaning of the cut by a nestmate, followed by a nestmate chewing off the leg entirely. In contrast, tibia injuries only received the mouth cleaning. In both cases, intervention resulted in ants with experimentally infected wounds having a much greater survival rate.

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