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No ant left behind

Posted in Life & Love

What do ants and US Marines have in common? Apparently the mandate to retrieve fallen comrades from the battlefield.

German researcher Erik Frank, while studying ant colonies in the Ivory Coast, noticed that ants marched in columns of three on the way to attack termite nests. Once the battle was over, they would retreat back to their anthill carrying termites on their backs. But not just termites. Some of the tiny warriors carried fellow ants who were injured, maybe missing a limb or two.

Frank also noticed that, after a few days of convalescence at home, the injured ants were back on the battlefield, looking for food, having re-learnt to walk again (he had marked them with dots of paint).

Now. Ants don’t possess empathy, proven by the fact that, upon encountering an ant in need on the way to battle, they don’t stop to lend a hand. Only when the food is procured, on the way back, do they offer succor.

So, why do they do it? Because it makes economic sense. Because there is strength in numbers: the larger the colony, the stronger it is and the more food is amassed.

A friendly reminder from the animal kingdom that helping others goes beyond doing good for goodness’ sake.

 

 

 

 

You can read the whole study here

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6 Comments

  1. Reminds me of those stories where Republican cities ended homelessness, not because it was the kind thing to do, but because it made economical sense. Although I’m sorry it’s not because someone decided to just be good to someone else, I’m still happy people in need are profiting from this, and society in general is, too. Now I ask: why isn’t this done everywhere else?…

    April 14, 2017
    |Reply
    • Because sometimes the economic interests veer a different way, or a powerful few are too greedy. But why indeed? I live in city with endemic homelessness – the city works hard to combat it but if feels like Penelope’s thread.

      April 14, 2017
      |Reply
      • But that’s the problem right there – it’s NOT more expensive to house the homeless, it’s the exact opposite! Because they aren’t committing crimes to stay in jail (on cold nights, for example) or getting ill from being exposed to elements and ending up in hospital, housing a homeless person is cheaper… So I guess it all boils down to sheer ill will, and this horrible notion that they deserve living the way they do. Makes me sick.

        April 15, 2017
        |Reply
  2. It’s interesting the ways scientists prove that certain animals are / are not empathetic, intelligent, resourceful, etc, etc…

    I still don’t think anything’s going to make me NOT dislike ants though (sorry, I realise there are a lot of negatives in that sentence…)

    April 14, 2017
    |Reply
    • The other thing I thought when I heard the story (on the radio) was that it will be so much harder to kill an ant now…(I get ant invasions when it rains).

      April 14, 2017
      |Reply
      • I get ant invasions when it rains too! Apparently ants know when rain is coming, and sometimes these invasions start well before the rain

        April 15, 2017
        |Reply

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