Let’s say that you are an ant, and you are out and about picking berries with your best friends, as I am sure you often do, and you notice a dangerous presence looming. Before you realize what is going on you take a look around and you can see that your ant-friends are either dead or injured. What do you do? Do you go running as fast as you can in the safest direction? Do you attempt to carry back your wounded? Or would you gather up the remaining members of your team so that the remaining members can communicate a plan that will save everyone’s life?
The last option, which involved quick communication and planning, is probably not an option available to ants, because many mammals are not even smart enough to work effectively and efficiently in groups. So, if you answered with a “plan”, that was not the best option, and you were definitely wrong. However, I bet you also thought that ants do not have the intelligence or social skills necessary in order to save the lives of their brothers and sisters. If this is what you thought, then it is difficult to fault you; after all, what is the most complicated procedure that you have ever seen an ant perform. It goes without saying that ants are not the smartest animals in the world, but researchers have, in fact, noticed ants staying behind in battle in order to bring their wounded to safe areas in order to prevent any further damage.
So do these ants save the lives of other ants all of the time? The answer is “no”. The ants being described are officially known as Megaponera analis. These ants dwell mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, and they prefer to eat termites. The only problem with ants hunting termites is that ants are not much stronger than their termite prey, and it is not uncommon to have several ants left injured after a fight with a single termite. Naturally, this particular group of ants had to adapt to their environment before the local termite population destroyed them all. The ants did this by preventing as much loss of life as possible when it collected the wounded despite the dangerous conditions. So when it comes to feasting on termites, ants may be the least selfish of all insects.
Have you ever witnessed a battle between a termite and an ant? If yes, who won?