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Feb 14, 2018

These termite-hunting ants lick the severed legs of their friends to treat them

Termite-hunting ants in sub-Saharan Africa treat each other’s wounds by licking them, according to new research. It might sound icky — but the treatment actually saves lives.

The ant, called Megaponera analis, specializes in raiding termite nests. These hunts, however, are dangerous: The ants can lose legs or antennas, and sometimes they die. A study last year showed that the ants rescue their injured friends in the battlefield, taking them back to the nest. Now, researchers have shown what exactly happens in the nest after those rescue operations. In hour-long sessions, healthy ants take turns licking the injured mate’s severed legs, treating the open wounds. And that reduces mortality by 70 percent, possibly by fighting off infections,...

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