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Ants practice combat triage and nurse their injured

Mildly injured ants may overact their disabilities to get rescued

2:14pm, February 16, 2018
Matabele ant

ANT RX A Matabele ant from Africa uses her mouthparts to treat a nest mate’s wounded leg in a prompt and effective insect version of health care.

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No wounded left behind — not quite. Ants that have evolved battlefield medevac carry only the moderately wounded home to the nest. There, those lucky injured fighters get fast and effective wound care.

Insect colonies seething with workers may seem unlikely to stage elaborate rescues of individual fighters. Yet for Matabele ants (Megaponera analis) in sub-Saharan Africa — with a mere 1,000 to 2,000 nest mates — treating the wounded can be worth it, says behavioral ecologist Erik Frank at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

Tales of self-medication pop up across the animal kingdom. For Matabele ants, however, nest cameras plus survival tests show insects treating other adults and improving their chances of survival, he and colleagues report February 14 in

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