Counting ants can be compared to counting the grains of sand at a beach. Six researchers proved that they are up to the challenge. They’ve come up with the latest–and most comprehensive–estimate of the number of ants in the world: 20 quadrillion. This is 12 megatons of biomass, more than all wild animals and mammals combined.
Ants play an important role in ecosystem engineering, moving dirt and distributing seeds . They also recycle organic matter. Although some research has been done to determine how many ants there are around the globe, there is no global estimate.
Researchers analyzed 12,000 reports in various languages including Indonesian and Bulgarian to find 489 studies that used rigorous methods for counting and collecting ants. The majority of studies did not focus on ants but rather on questions about biodiversity and evolution. It was surprising to discover how many ants live in the tropics. They are most abundant in moist forests and savannas.
According to the team, this estimate is between two and 20 times more than the previous one. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . The authors argue that it is more accurate because it relies on actual counts of ants collected around the globe.