How many ants live on earth? Scientists have come up with an answer: ScienceAlert

Have you ever wondered exactly how many ants live on Earth? Probably not, but it is definitely a question we asked ourselves.

our Research Today’s post provides an approximate answer. We conservatively estimate that our planet harbors about 20 quadrillion ants. This is 20 thousand million million, or, in numerical form, 20,000,000,000,000,000,000 (20 with 15 zeros).

We further estimate that the world’s ants collectively make up about 12 million tons of dry carbon. This exceeds the mass of all land birds and land mammals in the world combined. It is also equal to about one-fifth of the total weight of a human being.

The eminent biologist Edward O. Wilson once said that insects and other invertebrates are the “little things that run the world” — and he was right.

Ants, in particular, are critical part from natural. Among other roles, ants aerate the soil, disperse seeds, break down organic matter, create a habitat for other animals, and are an important part of the food chain.

Estimating ant populations and masses provides an important baseline from which to monitor ant populations amid alarming environmental changes.

Count the ants in the world

There are more than 15,700 specific species and subspecies of ants, and many others that science has yet to name. The high degree of social organization made it possible for ants to colonize almost all ecosystems and regions around the world.

The astonishing spread of ants prompted many naturalists to do so Contemplate Their exact number on the ground.

But these were basically educated guesses. Evidence-based systematic estimates were not available.

Our research included an analysis of 489 studies of ant populations conducted by fellow ant scientists from around the world. This included non-English literature in languages ​​such as Spanish, French, German, Russian, Mandarin and Portuguese.

The research extended to all major continents and habitats including forests, deserts, grasslands, and cities. They used standard methods for collecting and counting ants such as pit traps and leaf litter samples. As you can imagine, this work is often hard work.

Of all this, we estimate that there are approximately 20 quadrillion ants on Earth. This number, although conservative, is between two and 20 times more than previous estimates.

Previous figures used a “top-down” approach assuming that ants make up about 1 percent of the world’s estimated insect population.

In contrast, our ‘bottom-up’ estimate is more reliable because it uses data on ants directly observed in the field and makes fewer assumptions.

Our next step was to find out how much all these ants weigh. mass of living organisms usually measured In terms of carbon composition.

We estimated that 20 quadrillion medium-sized ants corresponded to the dry weight or “biomass” of about 12 million tons of carbon.

That’s more than the combined biomass of birds and land mammals — and about 20 percent of all human biomass.

carbon is formed about half Dry weight of an ant. If the weight of other bodily elements were included, the total mass of the world’s ants would be higher.

We also found that ants are unevenly distributed over the Earth’s surface. They differ sixfold between habitats and peak in generally in the tropics. This underscores the importance of the tropics in maintaining the health of ant populations.

Ants were also especially abundant in forests and, surprisingly, in arid regions. But it is becoming less common in man-made habitats.

Our findings come with some caveats. For example, the sampling locations in our data set are unevenly distributed across geographic regions.

And the vast majority of the samples were collected from the stratum corneum, which means we have very little information about ant numbers in trees or Underground. This means that our findings are somewhat incomplete.

Many species of ants are important seed dispersers. Here are two factors miranoples Ants carry a seed to their nest. (Francois Brassard)

We all need ants

Ants also provide vital “ecosystem services” to humans. For example, a recent study have found Ants can be more effective than pesticides in helping farmers produce food.

Ants have also developed strong interactions with other organisms – and some species cannot survive without them.

For example, some birds rely on ants eviction their prey. And thousands of plant species both Feed or house ants In exchange for protection or scattering its seeds. And many ants are predators, which helps keep other insect populations in check.

It is worrying that the global insect numbers as well back off Because of threats such as habitat destruction and fragmentation, chemical use, invasive species, and Climate change.

But data on the biodiversity of insects is alarmingly scarce. We hope that our study will provide a basis for further research to help fill this gap.

It is in the interest of mankind to monitor ant populations. Counting ants is not difficult, and citizen scientists from around the world can help investigate how these important animals are doing at a time of major environmental change.Conversation

Mark Wongfellow Forrest, University of Western Australia; Benoit JennardCo-professor, University of Hong Kong; Francois BrassardPhD candidate, Charles Darwin University; Patrick Schulthesinterim principal investigator Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg; Runxi WangPhD candidate, University of Hong KongAnd the Sabine Nuteninterim principal investigator Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg

This article has been republished from Conversation Under a Creative Commons License. Read the original article.