When you spot an ant crawling up a wall, you think nothing, right? Well, let us tell you for every single human, there are 2.85 million ants on the planet. How do we know? A group of researchers in Hong Kong have estimated that there are 20 quadrillion ants crawling all over the Earth. Take your time to process the number.
The researchers have integrated data from different parts of the world, compiling 489 studies, major biomes and habitats before dissecting the number at 20 quadrillions. Not to forget, their total biomass is 12 megatons of dry carbon.
Biomass is the total quantity or weight of organisms in a given area. While the biomass of ants goes up to 12 megatons, that of wild birds and mammals when combined is around 2 million tons.
“This exceeds the combined biomass of wild birds and mammals and equals 20% of human biomass,” read the report published in Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research also states that “ant abundance is distributed unevenly on Earth.” As compared to habitats, they are around six times more in the tropics. Reportedly, the ground-dwelling ants are concentrated in tropical as well as subtropical regions. But they vary considerably across the habitats.
“The density of leaf-litter ants is highest in forests, while the numbers of actively ground-foraging ants are highest in arid regions,” the study states.
The global map of ant abundance expands our understanding of the geography of ant diversity. It also provides a baseline for predicting ants’ responses to environmental changes that currently impact insect biomass.
A previous study, published in the journal of animal ecology, has highlighted that ants have two distinct effects on their local environment.
Firstly, their nest building and food collecting activity affect the level of nutrients in the soil. Secondly, “They prey on a wide range of other animals, including larger prey which can be attacked by vast numbers of ant workers.” Ants are effective predators who attack in huge numbers.
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