Scientists estimate there are 20 QUADRILLION ants on Earth

Scientists estimate there are 20 QUADRILLION ants on Earth – and say the tiny insects weigh more than all mammals and wild birds

  • The researchers analyzed 489 previous studies on ants, spanning all continents
  • Their findings suggest there are 20,000,000,000,000,000 ants in the world
  • Combined, these ants have a biomass of 12 megatons of dry carbon
  • This exceeds the combined biomass of wild birds and mammals and is about 20% of humanity’s biomass.

Whether it’s the number of stars in the night sky or the number of grains of sand in the Sahara, some questions seem impossible to answer.

Today, scientists are on the verge of finding a solution to one of these questions: how many ants are there on Earth?

Researchers from the Julius Maximilians University of Würzberg claim that there are 20 quadrillion ants crawling on our planet.

For comparison, there are currently about 7.8 billion humans on Earth, which means there are about 2.5 million ants per person!

Sabine Nooten, lead author of the study, said: “Our estimates put the global ant population at 20 x 1015, or 20 quadrillion animals.

“It’s a 20 with 15 zeros, which is hard to grasp and appreciate.”

Researchers from the Julius Maximilians University of Würzberg claim that there are 20 quadrillion ants crawling on Earth

Their findings suggest there are 20 quadrillion ants on Earth, with a combined biomass of 12 megatons of dry carbon.

Their findings suggest there are 20 quadrillion ants on Earth, with a combined biomass of 12 megatons of dry carbon.

Where are all the ants?

Except for the poles, ants inhabit almost every habitat on Earth, but until now little was known about their distribution.

The results of the study suggest that the tropics have the highest ant density.

And besides the climatic zone, local ecosystems also play an important role in insect distribution, the researchers said.

Forests and arid regions harbor the most specimens, while areas with more humans have fewer ants, according to the study.

In the study, the team set out to estimate the total number of ants across the planet.

“Knowledge of the distribution and abundance of organisms is fundamental to understanding their roles within ecosystems and their ecological importance to other taxa,” the researchers write in their study published in PNAS.

This knowledge is currently lacking for insects, which have long been considered the “little things that run the world”.

“Even for ubiquitous insects, such as ants, which are of considerable ecological importance, there are currently no reliable estimates of their total numbers on Earth or their abundance in particular biomes or habitats.”

To arrive at their estimate, the team evaluated 489 previous studies of ants, spanning all continents, major biomes and habitats.

Their findings suggest there are 20 quadrillion ants on Earth, with a combined biomass of 12 megatons of dry carbon.

“This exceeds the combined biomass of wild birds and mammals and is about 20% of the biomass of humanity,” said study co-author Patrick Schultheiss.

Except for the poles, ants inhabit almost every habitat on Earth, but until now little was known about their distribution.

Except for the poles, ants inhabit almost every habitat on Earth, but until now little was known about their distribution.

Except for the poles, ants inhabit almost every habitat on Earth, but until now little was known about their distribution.

The results of the study suggest that the tropics have the highest ant density.

And besides the climatic zone, local ecosystems also play an important role in insect distribution, the researchers said.

Forests and arid regions harbor the most specimens, while areas with more humans have fewer ants, according to the study.

The researchers hope their findings will spur further research into the numbers and distribution of ants around the world.

“Per hectare, ants move up to 13 tons of soil mass per year,” Schultheiss said.

“They therefore have a great influence on maintaining the nutrient cycle and also play a decisive role in the distribution of plant seeds.”

HOW DO ANTS USE MATH TO BUILD “LIVING BRIDGES”?

Several species of ants build “living bridges” made of their own bodies to cross small spaces.

Researchers from the New Jersey Institute of Technology showed in 2015 that up to 20% of a colony can be stuck in bridges on a road at any one time.

This is when an individual ant can perform a “bridging” algorithm.

An ant can tell how many times it has been stepped on by previous ants and use this to judge the width of the bridge.

When this reaches a certain number, an ant – judging that too many colony members can now occupy bridges – may join the march.

Several species of ants build “living bridges” out of their bodies to cross small spaces

Several species of ants build “living bridges” out of their bodies to cross small spaces

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