20 Quadrillion Ants On The Planet, Say Scientists

Scientists have revealed that the Earth is populated by an astonishing 20 quadrillion ants in ecosystems all around the world.

A research team led by biologists Dr Patrick Schultheiss and Dr Sabine Nooten from the University of Wurzburg, Franconia, Bavaria, Germany said the number is so big it’s “unimaginable”.

A single quadrillion is the equivalent of a million billion.

Image shows driver ants of the genus Aenictus photographed on the Lockhart River in Queensland, Australia, undated photo.
(Francois Brassard/Newsflash)

To calculate the correct number of ants the team collected and reviewed about 500 suitable studies on the insects and combined them in a database.

Dr Nooten said in a statement obtained by Newsflash: “”According to our estimates, the global ant population is 20 quadrillion animals.

“That is a 20 with 15 zeros, which is hard to grasp and appreciate.”

According to the scientists, the number indicates that if all ants were put together on a scale they would outweigh all wild birds and mammals together.

Dr Schultheiss added: “That exceeds the combined biomass of wild birds and mammals and corresponds to about 20 percent of humanity’s biomass.”

The scientists also determined the ants’ worldwide distribution and found out that the tropics hold the highest ant density.

Additionally, forests and arid regions were proved to provide home for most specimens, while areas highly influenced by humans were rarely inhabited.

Dr Schultheiss explained why the ants’ number and distribution is so important and added: “Per hectare, ants move up to 13 tons of soil mass per year.

Image shows the biomass of ants (Ameisen) in relation to other living organisms, such as humans (Menschen), wild birds (Wilde Vogel), wild mammals (Wilde Sauger), and terrestrial arthropods (Terrestrische Arthropoden), undated photo.
(Runxi Wang/Newsflash)

“So they have a great influence on maintaining the nutrient cycle and also play a decisive role in the distribution of plant seeds.”

The researchers intend to focus their future studies on environmental influences that affect ant distribution and how it might be changed by climate change.

The study titled “The Abundance, Biomass, and Distribution of Ants on Earth” was published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS) on Monday, 19th September 2022.


To find out more about the author, editor or agency that supplied this story – please click below.
Story By: Georgina JadikovskaSub-Editor: Marija Stojkoska, Agency:  Newsflash

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