Using data from 489 ant studies, researchers have compiled an estimated population of 20 quadrillion ants. The tally is two to 20 times higher than previous estimates.
The new estimate of ant population will help scientists track changes in ecology. Ants play an important role in ecosystems around the world. They serve as a source of food for many different animals, including wasps and lizards. They also help fertilize plants with their nectar.
Scientists have long wondered how many ants are there on Earth. Previous estimates have mainly taken data from studies that measured the total number of insects on the planet. The new study is the first “bottom-up” effort to estimate ant numbers. Researchers from the University of Hong Kong’s School of Biological Sciences worked off data from previous studies.
They used data from 489 ant studies to calculate the global ant population. The researchers found that the ants are distributed unevenly over the world’s land surface. Some ant colonies prefer certain types of vegetation while others can be found in arid regions. They have been around for over 50 million years. They have adapted well to life in the wilderness.
The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors hope that the data will inspire people to take a closer look at nature. The researchers plan to study environmental factors that determine the density of ant populations.
They are most abundant in tropical climates. But ants are also found in the subantarctic.