A community of chimpanzees observed in the African country of Gabon has seen the chimps performing a form of first aid on each other.
In this new discovery, they observed the chimps using insects on each other’s open wounds as a form of first aid.
Despite there being sightings of animals using plants for first aid, this is the first time insects have been observed being used to medicate.
These extraordinary findings contribute more towards the even mounting research that suggests certain animals exhibit human-like emotions such as empathy.
This is clearly shown in the treating of each other with first aid, an act that does not benefit themselves directly.
The study began in November 2019 when Alessandra Mascaro observed a female chimpanzee nursing her son’s injured foot.
When analyzing the footage, they noticed that the female chimp pulled a winged insect from under her foot and placed it on the wound.
“We had witnessed something really amazing,” says Simone Pika, a team member from the Osnabrück University in Germany.
Researchers continued to monitor roughly 45 chimps within this community over the next 15 months when they observed the same behavior in 22 chimps.
19 of the 22 cases would catch a small winged insect, squash it with their lips and then rub it into the exposed wounds before discarding the insect itself.
“It takes [a] lot of trust to put an insect in an open wound,” said Pika. “They seem to understand that if you do this to me with this insect, then my wound gets better. It’s amazing.”
It is yet to be determined what species of insect the chimpanzees were using, although it is suspected that it would be one that contains anti-inflammatory compounds.
Animals using plants to medicate themselves has been observed for a while now, but insects are completely new.
“For instance, our two closest living relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, swallow leaves of plants with antihelmintic properties and chew bitter leaves that have chemical properties to kill intestinal parasites,” says Pika.
Despite doubts from some scientists that other animal species can perform full ‘prosocial’ behaviors like complete altruism, Pika hopes this example will help shift their mindset.