In the aftermath of a vicious encounter with their foes, termites, the African Matabele Ants will attend to their injured, like medics on a battlefield.
These ants send out scouts to find the nests of their arch nemeses to attack, then raid the termite colony, often taking substantial damage due to the powerful mandibles of their enemies. Many of the ants scurry away after the battle having lost limbs or sporting deep cuts.
Retrieving the Injured
These badly injured ants secrete a specific kind of pheromone that alerts their fellow colony members that they need help. When help arrives, the assisting ants quickly determine whether the injured ant is treatable, or too badly wounded to be able to help. Those that are treatable are carried back to the colony.
Attending to Wounds
Once the injured ant is returned home. They stay relatively still, cooperating with their rescuers as the little “medics” begin to work on their open wounds. These rescuer ants use their mouths to “lick” the wound in a way, cleaning the area and treating it for a matter of minutes. Scientists found that injured ants that did not receive this treatment from their colony members actually had an 80% chance of succumbing to their wounds within a few hours whereas those who were treated only have a 10% chance of passing away from their injuries.
Following the healing process, these previously wounded ants can actually continue to function within their colony even missing limbs. Even as veterans of vicious termite war, they can contribute as workers in their nest and live on to see another day.
These Ant Paramedics Save Their Injured Comrades (2018) YouTube. SciShow. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_lf6NksxFl&list=PLB3FCEEAC84884760&index=225 (Accessed: May 2020).