For years now, researchers around the world have been trying to accurately estimate the number of species that make up terrestrial biodiversity. The ranges are rather wide, the fault of places on Earth that remain difficult to access or unexplored. Each year, researchers identify new animal or plant species. Only, what about the number of ants? Insects present almost everywhere on Earth that still fascinate. Researchers have estimated their number, and it is unimaginable.
a number hard to imagine
With their well-knit societies, 30,000 different species and intriguing colonies, ants are among the most popular insects on the planet. Only, how many ants are there on Earth? With colonies numbering between a few dozen members and several million, a presence on six out of seven continents and a surprising capacity for adaptation, ants have been proliferating for at least 100 million years. An insect whose biomass is greater than that of Humanity, just that.
But what about the exact number of ants on Earth? A difficult number to calculate, given the animal in question. However, researchers from the University of Hong Kong have looked into the question and wanted to provide an answer. Rather than traveling the globe to count ants one by one, the scientists turned to existing studies. Thus, by analyzing no less than 489 studies, these researchers managed to share their results in a new study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
To start, the total mass of ants on Earth would be equal to 12 megatons of carbon, just that. For comparison, in 2016, Humanity represented only 60 million tons of carbon. What about the total number of ants? After estimate, it seems that 20 quadrillion ants roam the earth right now. A number that has a few zeros since it can be written in this form: 20,000,000,000,000,000.
“It’s unimaginable“, says Patrick Schultheiss, one of the main authors of the study, now a researcher at the University of Würzburg in Germany. “We simply cannot imagine 20 quadrillion ants in a single pile, for example. It just doesn’t work“.
An unimaginable number based on data collected by thousands of researchers, living or having lived in different parts of the globe, spread over a century. It should be remembered that this number is an estimate. Researchers are not able to accurately count the number of ants present on Earth, especially since regions in Africa and Asia lack data. Despite everything, these researchers managed to share with us an overall idea of the number of ants.