Enlarge / This won’t hurt a bit. (credit: Erik T.

Deadly battles play out several times a day in the Ivory Coast’s Comoé National Park, leaving wounded behind.

The fights break out when hundreds of African Matabele ants march off to raid a nearby termite mound to slaughter termite workers and haul them back to the nest to feed the colony.

But termites, with their strong, sharp mandibles, aren’t easy prey, and raiders often get limbs bitten off in the fight.
In the aftermath of a raid, researchers are finding evidence that the ants care for their wounded.

The wounded ants secrete a pheromone that calls other returning raiders to carry their injured comrades home.

Back at the nest, healthy nest-mates clean the injured ants’ wounds.

And the behavior of injured ants even creates a triage system so that only the ants that might actually be saved get rescued.
“It’s only a flesh wound!”
Ants that are only missing a leg or two can generally make the 50-meter trek back to the nest, but their injuries make them more vulnerable to predators, so about a third of injured ants who try to walk home won’t make it.
So when nest-mates are nearby, injured ants slow down and even develop a sudden tendency to fall over.
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