Self-medicating ants

Evolution Happens

Whether swallowing Excedrin® for a headache or sipping a cocktail to take the edge off, you’ve likely self-medicated more than once in your life. Similar to written language and advanced tool use, ingesting an otherwise harmful substance for the purposes of curing what ails you is a behavior usually considered to be uniquely human. But it turns out ants can self-medicate, too. A recent study showed that common black ants changed their diets when they were sick—eating more food supplemented with a medicinal substance—as compared to ants with no infection.

1024px-Grauschwarze_Sklavenameise_Formica_fusca_02_(MK) The common European black ant, Formica fusca, can alter its behavior to self-medicate when it’s sick.
Photo by Mathias Krumbholz via Wikimedia Commons

You may have heard stories of elephants getting drunk by eating fermented fruit or of dolphins getting high off pufferfish toxin – but as much as people might like these stories to be true, they’re actually driven more by myth than…

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