They count the ants of the world, and there are more than 20,000 billion

An international team of researchers has just published in ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ the most accurate estimate to date of the number of ants that live on Earth: twenty thousand billion (20,000,000,000,000,000), a biomass that, in taken together, it is heavier than the sum of all the wild mammals and birds on our planet. “Anyone who has looked at ants and realized there are a lot of them,” says Patrick Schultheiss of the University of Hong Kong, who led the research with his colleague Sabine Nooten of Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg in Germany. – you have probably wondered how many there can be in total; It’s a question that’s on people’s minds.” To find an answer, the scientists collected data from 489 previous studies that had already measured ant density in different parts of the world. They then extrapolated the data and concluded that the total number of ants on Earth is around twenty thousand billion individuals. A truly astronomical figure. Related News standard No Ants: this is how queens manage to have many children and live up to 30 times longer than workers Judith de Jorge standard No What makes a bee become a queen? Pedro Gargantilla According to the study, the total biomass of this gigantic population (that is, the carbon weight of the sum of all the individuals), is around twelve million tons, which is more than the sum of the biomass of the birds wild (two million tons) and wild mammals (seven million tons). By comparison, the total biomass of humans is about 60 million tons. Previous estimates of the number of ants on Earth were “essentially educated guesses” extrapolated from measured ant densities in one or two locations, says Schultheiss. The new analysis is much more precise, since it takes into account hundreds of studies carried out on five continents. Despite this, the researchers admit that their figure is still not entirely accurate, since most of the ant counts used were carried out on the ground, leaving aside trees or underground surveys. Furthermore, available statistics from Africa and North Asia are also limited. What they are for Currently, there are 15,700 known species and subspecies of ants. And all of them, like all other insects, are vital to most ecosystems due to their role in dispersing seeds, increasing nutrient availability through soil renewal, and providing food for animals. animals that feed on them. For Sabine Nooten, knowing the global population of ants is important for conservation purposes: “With this study, we provide a baseline for the global distribution of the number of ants and their biomass, and in the future we could repeat the work in the same places using the same methods to see what has changed»


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