Amputations Save Lives - Even in Ants

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Amputation when wounded: An ant bites off the leg of an injured conspecific. It
Amputation when wounded: An ant bites off the leg of an injured conspecific. It then treats the wound by licking it. (Image: Hanna Haring)

In an emergency, ants bite off injured limbs of fellow ants to ensure their survival. Whether they take this radical step depends on the location of the wound.

They exhibit a behaviour that was previously only known in humans: Florida carpenter ants (Camponotus floridanus) amputate limbs as a precautionary measure to save the lives of wounded conspecifics. In the case of certain injuries to the legs, they bite them off completely.

This brutal procedure prevents life-threatening wound infections from spreading through the ants’ bodies. The success rate is very good: around 90 per cent of the amputated animals survive the treatment. ...

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