One of the key characteristics of social animals is the act of helping other members of the society. People often think that nature is ruled by “the survival of the fittest” and selfishness for survival, but societies are common in the animal kingdom. For example, even insects, that people consider “inferior”, such as ants build massive empires and cities, forming an unbelievably intricate and efficient society.
In the wild, all animals must find food to live, but due to competition and the environmental conditions, there are days when an animal cannot find enough food. For times like this, ants have a second communal stomach which they fill with leftover food after a meal. They then approach a hungry colony member and offers it a meal. If the other ant accepts, the two ants then lock their mouths together and one ant brings up the food in the communal stomach into the other ant’s mouth. Benefaction such as this allows for a smooth functioning of the society.
There is another role of trophallaxis (the transfer of nutrients via the mouth-to-mouth route described above): communication. Ants rub their antennae together to identify each other’s pheromones, which acts as identification such as what colony they are from and their role in the colony. Some scholars suggest that trophallaxis is the origin of the kiss.
The act of offering pre-stored food to comrades is also found in vertebrates such as birds and bats. For instance, some species of birds feed, return to its nest and then vomits the food for the young to feed on.
Helping those in need to create an efficient and functional society, and reaping the rewards of quid pro quo: that is the way of the philosophy of 1 + 1 = 3.