There are at least 20 quadrillion ants on Earth, according to a new study that says even that staggering number probably underestimates the total population of the insects, which are an essential part of ecosystems around the world.
Determining the global population of ants is important for measuring the impact of changes in their habitat, including those caused by climate change.
Ants play an important role, they disperse seeds, harbor organisms and serve as predators or prey.
Some studies have already tried to estimate the global ant population, but they resulted in a much smaller number than 20 quadrillion, or 20 million billion.
For this new attempt – published in the magazine on Monday Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) researchers analyzed 465 studies in which the number of ants was measured locally in the field.
The hundreds of studies used two standardized techniques: setting traps that catch ants passing by over a period of time, or analyzing the number of ants on a particular patch of leaves on the ground.
While surveys were conducted on all continents, some major regions had little or no data, including Central Africa and Asia.
This is why “the actual abundance of ants worldwide is likely to be significantly higher” than estimated, the study said. “It is paramount that we fill these remaining gaps to get a comprehensive picture of insect diversity.”
There are over 15,700 named species and subspecies of ants found across the planet, and probably an equal number that have yet to be described.
But nearly two-thirds of that is found in just two types of ecosystems: tropical forests and savannas.
Based on the estimated number of ants, their total global biomass is believed to be 12 megatons of dry carbon — more than wild birds and mammals combined, and 20 percent that of humans.
In the future, researchers plan to study the environmental factors that influence the population density of the tiny creatures.
How many ants are there on Earth?
Patrick Schultheiss et al, The abundance, biomass and distribution of ants on Earth, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.220150119
© 2022 AFP
Quote: How many ants are there on Earth? 20 quadrillion, says survey (2022, September 24) retrieved September 24, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-09-ants-earth-quadrillion.html
This document is copyrighted. Other than fair dealing for personal study or research, nothing may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.