Goodbye Cruel World - Ants Save Mates from Danger & Macaque Grandmas Nurse Their Grandchildren

Sometimes nature isn't so harsh and here are two stories as example: BBC News reports that two grandmother macaques have been observed nursing and caring for their grandchildren, the first time such caring behavior has been unambiguously documented; on a much smaller scale, LiveScience tells us that new research shows that ants will save nestmates from danger:Ants Help Out With No Possibility of Reward
Original reported in the online journal PLoS One that though helpful acts such as mutual grooming are common among animals, incidence of animals rescuing each other are rare. Not so among the ant Cataglyphis cursor.

Scientists devised an experiment wherein one ant was restrained in collapsing sand by a nylon snare. The other ants started by digging around the restrained ant, tugging on its limbs trying to free it. They eventually found the snare and bit through the restraint to free the trapped ant.

The interesting part was that though the digging and pulling could possibly attribute to simple chemical distress signals, but in this case the ants exhibited noteworthy cognitive and behavioral complexity -- in this case both participants risked physical harm "with no possibility of reward for the rescuer aside from the benefits of kin selection."


photo: Wajimacallit via flickr.
Very Unusual From Grandmother Macaques to Care for Infants
Closer to our own species, researchers in Japan who have been studying the same group of wild Japanese macaques for the past 30 years report that for the first time female grandparents have been observed taking care of their own granddaughters.

Dr Masayuki Nakamichi from Osaka University:

We know that some monkeys...sometimes adopt infants. In most cases, it is females who have lost their own infants. However in the present case the old, probably post-reproductive mothers started to take care of their young granddaughters.

It is very unusual for females who have not had their own offspring for years to start to take care of other infants.

The first instance of this behavior was observed when the mother of an infant went missing from the troupe unexpectedly. The infant's grandmother began caring for her, grooming and attempting to nurse the baby.

The second time a grandmother intervened, when her daughter was busy nursing a second infant, to nurse another child. The grandmother continued caring for the child five months later.

More: BBC News
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Tags: Animals | Biology | Ecology