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Like humans, these ants can perform leg amputations to save lives

Some ants, like the Florida carpenter ant, treat the injured legs of comrades, and will even perform medical amputations when necessary.
Zen Rial
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Some ants, like the Florida carpenter ant, treat the injured legs of comrades, and will even perform medical amputations when necessary.

Some ants farm. Some farm fungi for their food. And now, scientists have realized that when an ant injures its leg, it sometimes will turn to a buddy to perform a lifesaving limb amputation. Not only that — some ants have probably been amputating limbs longer than humans!

Amputation is an important skill for the Florida carpenter ant. Life for them is filled with territorial disputes and hunts for food. When an ant returns to its nest, it may do so with a critical injury. So, caring for your fellow ant through amputation is an important life skill to have.

Want to hear more cool stories about the tiny critters among us? Email us at shortwave@npr.org — we'd love to know!

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This episode was produced by Hannah Chinn and edited by Rebecca Ramirez. Nell checked the facts. Gilly Moon was the audio engineer.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Nell Greenfieldboyce is a NPR science correspondent.
Emily Kwong (she/her) is the reporter for NPR's daily science podcast, Short Wave. The podcast explores new discoveries, everyday mysteries and the science behind the headlines — all in about 10 minutes, Monday through Friday.
Hannah Chinn
Rebecca Ramirez (she/her) is the founding producer of NPR's daily science podcast, Short Wave. It's a meditation in how to be a Swiss Army Knife, in that it involves a little of everything — background research, finding and booking sources, interviewing guests, writing, cutting the tape, editing, scoring ... you get the idea.