The fate of injured ants

Petar writes us this:

I heard ants can't regenerate - Is that true? Also how much of a healing power do they have? I accidentally squished the gaster of one of my ants and he is still alive. Will it heal?

Dear Petar:

Thank you for your questions about the healing abilities of ants, which I will answer in order:
- Ants, and insects generally, do not regenerate body parts as do crustaceans (crabs, lobsters) and arachnids (spiders, etc.). Even for those animals, regeneration is largely limited to the limbs - legs, antennae, and feelers - and most importantly, is dependent on continued growth. The new structures develop under the old exoskeleton, and emerge the next time the critters shed their "skin". Since ants never molt after reachign the adult (ant) stage of their life, they do not have this ability.
- This does not mean ants are unable to heal from injury. It is fairly common to find ants walking about and behaving quite normally, with missing parts or dented or scarred exoskeletons. It is a safe assumption they were damaged in sustaining these injuries, and then healed from them. We know they can sustain some puncture wounds as well, by healing over the breech into their innards.
- The organs inside the gaster are quite adjustable in position, and can slide past one another to a large degree when the gaster is compressed. As long as those internal organs were not seriously damaged, your ant may heal.

Please note that your ant is not a he (unless it is a winged male), as worker ants are genetically female, and some even may lay eggs under certain conditions.

James C. Trager of the AskAnt Team

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