A new study conducted by a researcher at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland has found that the Matabele ants species used to lick the wounds of fallen comrades in times of emergencies. The lead researcher Erik Frank and his colleagues even filmed a video which portrays the events after the injured ants are brought in to the nests. The footage released by the researchers clearly shows a nurse ant licking the wounds of injured soldiers for minutes, and it clearly demonstrates the feel of compassion among these ant species.
Interestingly, ants which were denied this lifesaver licking died within some time. Without the lifesaving lick, 80% of the ants lost their life soon after they lost their limbs. However, 90% of the ants who received the medical care survived.
"We don't know yet if the ants are just cleaning the wound and removing debris, as we do with our wounds to prevent infection, or if they are also applying antimicrobial substances with their saliva. The ants are able to reach running speeds similar to healthy ants, despite missing a leg or two," said Erik Frank, Newscientist reports.
This is for the first time that a species apart from humans are showing medical care to injured one of their groups. Even though the video features a compassionate nurse licking the wounded soldiers, scientists have still not confirmed whether this act has risen out of compassion and kindness.
Researchers also said that Matabele ants are leading very dangerous lives, and during most of the times, they will be hunting for termites. Most of the times, the termites fight back and as a result, these ants will be inflicted with deadly injuries.
"Roughly a third of the colony has lost a limb at one point, so if they didn't rescue them then many would be killed on the return journey," added Frank. The researchers believe that the immediate treatment given will also help to stop the infection from spreading to other parts of the ant colony.