A recent study has found that ants consciously chose to eat hydrogen peroxide in order to "self-medicate" due to a life-threatening fungal infection.
A team of biologists from the University of Helsinki in Finland set out to show that a healthy ant would never ordinarily consume hydrogen peroxide, because of its toxicity, and that any consumption after being poisoned, was in fact a deliberate act of self-medication, Wired reported.
"The fact that ingestion of this substance carries a fitness cost in the absence of pathogens rules out compensatory diet choice as the mechanism, and provides evidence that social insects medicate themselves against fungal infection, using a substance that carries a fitness cost to uninfected individuals," the researchers wrote.
Study lead author Nick Bos said that ants in the wild likely source hydrogen peroxide from the decaying bodies of aphids and possibly other ants, Discovery reported.
David Baracchi of Queen University of London said insects in large colonies like ants and bees that follow a certain social behaviour are vulnerable to the disease.
"It is natural that they have evolved amazing mechanisms to counteract microorganisms, and self-medication is one of those," Baracchi said, adding that a small percentage increase in survival rates against infection will create a great change in the lives of these insects, according to The Independent.
Baracchi also said that other animals might also show this kind of capability, saying that a similar phenomenon has already been found in sheep.
The study was published in the International Journal of Organic Revolution.