How many ants are there on earth Scientists make new

How many ants are there on earth? Scientists make new estimate

THE WASHINGTON POST Almost 20 quadrillion. This is the new estimate for the total of ants in the country. A recent study published last Monday, 19, by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a group of scientists from the University of Hong Kong, analyzed 489 studies and concluded, along with the proposed amount, the total mass of the species on the planet: about 12 megatons of dry carbon (about 12 trillion kg).

If all these insects were plucked from the ground and placed on a scale, they would outnumber wild birds and mammals. There are about 2.5 million ants for every human being. According to Patrick Schultheiss, first author of the survey, the number is “unimaginable”. “We just can’t measure 20 quadrillion in one heap. It just doesn’t work,” he said.

Hong Kong study estimates there are about 20 trillion ants on Earth (AFP via Getty Images)A Hong Kong study estimates that there are about 20 trillion ants on Earth (AFP via Getty Images). Photo: AFP via Getty Images

To count all of this or at least enough to make a solid estimate had to combine data from “thousands of scholars in many different countries” over a century, according to the scientist.

And there are two ways to do that: get on the ground to take leaf samples, or set up small traps (they can just be plastic cups) for them to get inside. The researchers analyzed data in almost all parts of the world, but information is missing at some points in Africa and Asia.

Just like humans, ants can be found on practically every continent and their habitats. Bottom dwellers are most common in tropical and subtropical regions, according to the study team, but can be found in many places except the coldest parts of the world.

“No matter where you go except possibly Antarctica or the high Arctic however different human culture or natural environment might be, there will be ants,” said Edward Osborne Wilson, a renowned entomologist and biologist, who died in 2021.

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The “overpopulation” of the insect is beneficial to the planet. By building tunnels, they aerate the soil and pull seeds underground to germinate. They also serve as a food source for countless arthropods, birds and mammals.

And without the great carpenter ant, the forests would be piled to the brim with dead wood, as these “destroyers” of material would not have the strength to decompose.

Entomologists are concerned about declining populations of insects other than ants in Germany, Puerto Rico and other countries. Habitat destruction, pesticides, and climate change all contribute to this potential, which is being discussed as the “apocalypse” of this class. According to a 2019 study, more than 40% of species on the planet could become extinct, with butterflies and beetles facing the greatest threat. However, it is still uncertain whether this also applies to ants.

That’s the next research question the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences team hopes to answer. “We have not yet tried to show this temporal shift in ant abundance ourselves,” says Sabine Nooten, insect ecologist and coauthor of the study. “That would be something that would come next,” he added.

For decades, scientists have been observing small farms in laboratories to test theories about this animal’s behavior. Wilson used his expertise to explain the genetic basis for cooperation between his individuals and to highlight the tremendous biodiversity of life worth preserving.

In the 1990s, he and the biologist Bert Hölldobler ventured a guess about the ant population on Earth. His estimate was around 10 trillion — about the same range as the recently estimated number. “In Edward’s case, he was just a very smart man,” Schultheiss said. “I knew a lot about it and basically had a hunch,” he added.