(ORDO NEWS) — Ants are found in almost every place on Earth (not counting the poles), which makes calculating their number and weight quite a challenge.
Surely you wondered how many ants there are in the world, or how much they weigh. After a more thorough analysis, the scientists performed preliminary calculations. This work will help us understand the role these nearly ubiquitous insects play in the planet’s ecosystems.
Insects have long been considered “small creatures that rule the world,” the scientists write, citing biologist Edward O. Wilson. Despite this, they note, knowledge about their distribution and abundance is limited, as scientists in their studies have focused on larger and more visible things.
To address this issue, the authors combined studies of ant abundance in many environments to make estimates of terrestrial and arboreal ants present in nearly every major terrestrial ecosystem. Their figure (20 quadrillion insects) is double E. O. Wilson’s estimate published in 1994.
However, this did not take into account members of the colonies who do not leave their nests to search for food, as well as areas such as boreal forests (from forest-tundra to mid-latitudes).
Some of the results may surprise non-specialists. First, tree-dwelling ants outnumber their terrestrial counterparts by a ratio of six to one. Those of us who think of ants as living in underground nests have obviously never been to rainforests.
Taking into account the diversity of ants , the authors conclude that the total weight of these small bodies is about 12 megatons.
Of course, all these calculations may need to be adjusted if larger ants appear in nature.
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