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How many ants are there on Earth? What do scientists think?

How many ants are there on Earth?; what scientists think

The human population is projected to exceed 8 billion in the coming months. But, compared to ants, it is a smaller number.

Researchers have conducted the most comprehensive assessment to date of the global population of ants , insects that have colonized almost the entire planet, and the estimated total is 20,000 trillion, or about 2.5 million for every human being.

According to this study, the estimation of the ant population becomes clearer when the biomass of the animals is calculated, which is equivalent to 12 megatons of carbon. “That exceeds the combined biomass of wild birds and mammals and corresponds to about 20 percent of humanity’s biomass,” explains Patrick Schultheiss in a statement.

How many ants are there

To calculate the number of ants, the team reviewed a wide variety of existing studies on the insects, eventually evaluating around 500 suitable articles and combining them into a database.

But a team of researchers has proved this feat to be true. According to their calculations, there are about 200000000000000000 (20X10 15 ) i.e. 20,000 lakh crore ants in the world. Not only this, studies have shown that more than 17,000 species of them are known worldwide.  

Ants are found in almost all habitats except the polar regions. The study was the first to empirically investigate how they are distributed on the planet. It turned out that the tropics have the highest density of ants. In addition to the climatic zone, local ecosystems also play an important role. Forests and arid regions are home to most specimens, while they are much rarer in areas heavily influenced by humans.

Future studies should focus on which environmental influences specifically affect ant distribution and to what extent this will change, especially as a result of climate change.

Why is the number and distribution of these animals so important? First of all it is shown in an example cited in the study: “Per hectare, ants move up to 13 tons of soil mass per year”, reports Patrick Schultheiss, “therefore they have a great influence on maintaining the nutrient cycle and they also play a decisive role in the distribution of plant seeds.”

Sometimes, however, the influence of insects is also negative. Invasive species –for example, fire ants– can have a negative impact on local biodiversity and cause considerable damage.

A ‘conservative’ figure

The estimated total number is almost unimaginably large, but the study authors called it “conservative.” This is because they were unable to collect all the data they wanted to include.

For example, many ants live underground, but no studies were available that could provide figures on how many, co-lead author Patrick Schultheiss, a temporary principal investigator at the University of Würzburg said. There are ants in the far north and far south, like the subantarctic region, but there have not been enough studies of ants in those areas to make a mathematical estimate.

Citizen scientists could fill in these gaps, according to Schultheiss, who said non-scientists, even school students, could contribute to the data set in an impactful way simply by collecting leaf litter, pulling out all the ants and counting how many there are.

“We hope to inspire people, first of all, to respect nature, to enjoy nature, because it’s amazing what ants can do and on what scale. But furthermore, if they are willing to contribute to science with a very simple method, even the simplest data can have enormous value,” he added.

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