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Determining the global population of ants is important for assessing changes in their habitat, including those caused by climate change.
Ants play an important role by dispersing seeds and acting either as predators or as prey.
Scientists have repeatedly attempted to estimate the global population of ants. The latest study analyzed data from 465 field trials conducted around the world. Its results, published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), suggest that the number of ants on the planet exceeds 20 quadrillion, which is 20 million billion.
Although surveys were conducted on all continents, with few or no data available in some large regions, including Central Africa and Asia.
There are over 15,700 named species and subspecies of ants found all over the planet, and probably as many yet to be described. But almost two-thirds of them are found in only two types of ecosystems: rainforests and savannahs.
Based on the estimated number of ants, their total global biomass is estimated at 12 megatons of dry carbon — more than wild birds and mammals combined, and 20 percent more than human biomass.
In the future, researchers plan to study environmental factors that affect population density of tiny creatures.
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