The Internet is full of grandmother’s advice for a wide range of ailments. While some will actually help, most will give up and do whatever it takes. Not a fluffy gray-black ant, it knows exactly what to eat when it’s sick, according to a new study by the research team. University of Graz.
To this end, the researchers excavated a nest for the thin, gray-black ant (Formica fusca) in a Finnish forest and brought it to the laboratory. There they injected some ants with a fungal spore suspension, which can cause a deadly infection, and they also injected other ants with sterile water as a control. They then marked the ants with different colors and returned them to the nest so that they would continue to display normal behavior. Furthermore, the researchers fed healthy and infested ants food with three different concentrations of aphid: 0%, 10%, and 20%. According to the researchers, they observed daily how many ants ingested the concentrations and how many ants survived.
This showed that sick ants mainly focused on food rich in aphids. This was not without reason. Among the sick ants that ate the food with the highest concentration of aphids, fewer died than among the sick ants that ate the food containing 0% or 10% aphids. “Mortality rates among sick ants decreased significantly when more aphids were available,” says researcher Jason Risansen. According to scientists, this is probably due to hydrogen peroxide found in aphids. This has an antiseptic effect and thus may fight infection.
Choice of food
The researchers were also able to conclude that the choice of diet really depends on the disease, and not because the aphid might be “tastier.” Ants mainly chose foods containing many aphids during the acute phase of infestation. Once they overcame the disease, they quickly stopped eating this aphid-rich diet. According to the researchers, this indicates that ants are not only able to assess their health status, but are also able to design their food choices accordingly.
“It’s like going to the pharmacy,” Risansen says. “Ants are specifically looking for medicine.” Researchers believe this behavior is a form of self-medication, where the ants consciously ingest a substance that increases their chances of survival. Although it seems like a logical strategy, self-medication is a rare phenomenon in the animal kingdom. So far, it has been observed mainly in primates, sheep and butterflies. The research therefore shows that insects, which are often viewed as fairly simple creatures, can also develop complex strategies to protect themselves. Therefore, researchers hope to learn more about the mechanisms and evolution of self-medication in ants and other insects in the future.
Chimpanzees treat their wounds by rubbing insects on them. Scientists don’t know exactly what insects are involved. They do not travel much farther than they can fly, are about half a centimeter long and are usually dark in colour. It is also unknown whether the treatment is actually effective. “This is actually the biggest question,” Jaap de Roode previously told Scientias.nl. It may actually make those wounds better, but it may also be a purely cultural phenomenon. There are also capuchin monkeys that protect themselves from mosquitoes by… To smear themselves with millipede poison And ants Which process the resin in their nests To repel microbes and fungi. but
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