Ants Perform Surprising Amputations to Save Lives – Incredible New Study Shows Decision-making Process

Gainesville, Florida – Carpenter ants in Florida have been discovered to exhibit a unique behavior of amputating the limbs of injured nestmates to ensure their survival, according to a recent study published in the journal Current Biology. Researchers found that about 90% to 95% of ants receiving these amputations were able to resume their duties within the nest after the process, despite losing a leg. This behavior was observed by a team of international scientists, building on previous findings from 2023 involving a different ant species known as Matabele ants.

The study revealed that carpenter ants lack metapleural glands, which are typically used by other ant species to secrete antimicrobial compounds for wound care. Lead study author Erik Frank, a behavioral ecologist at the University of W├╝rzburg, explained that the amputations were particularly surprising, with the ants only performing the procedure if the injury was located on the thigh, or femur. The ants would then meticulously clean the wound with their mouthparts to remove any bacteria.

Interestingly, the researchers found that injuries to the thigh impeded blood circulation in the ants, making it crucial to amputate to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria throughout the body. On the other hand, injuries to the lower leg, or tibia, resulted in a different response from the ants, who focused on intensive cleaning rather than amputation.

The team of scientists conducted CT scans on the ants to study their injuries and how their bodies responded to the amputations. They discovered that the amputations took about 40 minutes to complete, leading the ants to favor femur amputations over tibia amputations due to the time-sensitive nature of the procedure.

These observations have raised questions about the evolutionary origins of the ants’ behavior and the underlying complexities behind their wound care instincts. The researchers are now aiming to explore similar examples of wound care across the animal kingdom to better understand the mechanisms and adaptations involved in survival strategies.