Earth harbours 20,000,000,000,000,000 ants – and they weigh more than wild birds and mammals combined

The world population is forecast to exceed 8 billion in the coming months. Compare to antit’s a trivial milestone.
Researchers have made the most thorough assessment to date of the global population of ants – insects that inhabit almost every corner of the planet – and an estimated total of 20 million billion of them, or about 2.5 million per human.
It should come as no surprise considering the prevalence of these busy and social insects and the fact that they have thrived since the age of the dinosaurs, with the oldest known ant fossils. dating back about 100 million years to the Cretaceous.
Entomologist Patrick said: “Ants certainly play a very central role in almost any terrestrial ecosystem. Schultheiss of the University of Würzburg in Germany and the University of Hong Kong, co-author of the study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“They are important for nutrient cycling, decomposition, plant seed dispersal and soil disturbance. Ants are also an extremely diverse group of insects, with different species performing a wide variety of activities. different functions, but most of all, that’s what they are, says Schultheiss.
There are more than 12,000 known species of ants, which are usually black, brown or red in color and have three-parted bodies. Ranging in size from about four hundredths of an inch (1 mm) to about 1.2 inches (3 cm) long, ants typically live in soil, leaf litter or decaying vegetation — and sometimes human kitchens. .
Ants, whose closest relatives are bees and wasps, are native to almost anywhere in the world The earthAs any picnicker knows, except Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland and some island nations.
The insect ecologist and co-researcher said: “I was surprised that the biomass of ants is higher than that of wild mammals and birds combined, and it reaches 20% of the biomass of human. -lead author Sabine Nootenalso of the University of Würzburg and the University of Hong Kong.
Nooten added: “I noticed a huge diversity of ants. Strumigenysknown for its long, spiky mouth used to hunt small invertebrates.
The researchers based their analysis on 489 studies of ant populations spanning the continents where ants live.
“Our data set represents a massive collection effort by thousands of scientists. We can then extrapolate ant populations to different regions of the world, and then we can extrapolate ant populations to different regions of the world,” says Schultheiss. estimates of their total number and global biomass”.
The tropics have more ants than other regions, with forests and drylands having more ants than urban areas.
“There are some places in the world where we have little data and we can’t come up with reliable estimates for all continents. Africa is one such example. We’ve known for a long time that it’s a very ant-rich but also very poorly studied continent,” Schultheiss said.
Ants often live in colonies, sometimes consisting of millions of individuals divided into groups with different roles such as worker ants, soldier termites and queen ants. The worker termites, all females, take care of the larger queen and her offspring, maintaining the nest and foraging. Males mate with queen bees, then die.
“Some ants can certainly be very annoying, but that’s a human-centered view,” says Schultheiss.
“Most ants are actually very beneficial, even for us humans,” added Schultheiss. “Think about the amount of organic matter that 20 million ants transport, remove, recycle and eat. In fact, ants are so essential to the smooth functioning of biological processes that they can be considered ecosystem engineers.The late ant scientist EO Wilson once called them ‘the little things that run the world.’ ”

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