Ants help injured friends by cutting off limbs to save their lives

Ants help injured friends by cutting off limbs to save their lives

Florida carpenter ants, reddish-brown ants from the southeastern United States, perform amputations to help injured friends survive, a new study revealed. Ants amputate limbs if necessary, just like humans do.

These ants clean wounds with their mouths or bite off damaged limbs. If the injury is higher on the leg, they amputate. If it is lower, they do not.

“This is the first time we’ve seen a non-human animal perform amputations to save another’s life,” Erik Frank, a researcher from the University of Würzburg in Germany, told news agency Reuters.

Frank is the lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Current Biology on Tuesday. He believes the ants’ medical care is the most advanced in the animal kingdom, second only to humans.

Florida carpenter ants live in rotting wood and defend their homes fiercely, often getting injured in fights.

Researchers studied leg injuries in ants, commonly found in the wild from fights, hunting, or predators. They observed the ants in a lab, deciding between amputation or wound care.

The decision depends on the flow of hemolymph, the ant equivalent of blood. Injuries lower on the leg cause more hemolymph flow, making amputations ineffective. Higher injuries have slower hemolymph flow, allowing time for amputation.

First, ants clean the wound, possibly using saliva from their mouths to remove infected hemolymph. Amputation can take 40 minutes to over three hours, with constant biting.

After amputating higher leg injuries, survival rates were around 90-95%, compared to 40% for untreated injuries. For lower leg injuries, cleaning led to a 75% survival rate, compared to 15% if untreated.

Female ants were observed doing this. All worker ants are female.

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