If you’ve ever wondered how many ants there are on Earth, then look no further: there are approximately 20 quadrillion ants currently on planet Earth, according to the latest scientific estimate.
How many ants are there in the world?
The figure of 20 quadrillion comes from a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2022. They reached this conclusion by synthesizing data from almost 500 studies on insect diversity covering all continents, major biomes, and habitats.
The number from the study is double the very rough calculation published in 1994, the first scientific effort to estimate ant numbers by extrapolating data on insects from southeastern England and applying it to the rest of the world.
How much do all the ants in the world weigh?
Around 20 quadrillion – that’s 20 million billion – ants weigh around 12 megatons. Based on the number of ants, the researchers worked out that their total global biomass is up to 12 megatons of dry carbon, which is just 20 percent of humanity’s total biomass.
If ants teamed up with other land insects, however, then they would easily crush the weight of all humans. A 2023 study found that the total fresh weight of all land insects and arthropods (not including aquatic species) was around 1 billion tonnes. Comparatively, the weight of humans is around 400 million tonnes and livestock is approximately 600 million tonnes.
If you were to blend up all the humans in the world, then they would create a meatball that’s just under 1 kilometer wide. You can trust us on that one.
How many species of ants are there?
There are over 15,700 named species and subspecies of ants known to science. However, it’s estimated that the true number of species could be double this.
Ants can be found on every continent on Earth except Antarctica, although there are no native species found in Iceland, Greenland, parts of eastern Polynesia, and a few of the most remote islands.
It’s estimated that nearly two-thirds of ant species are found in just two types of ecosystem: tropical forests and savannahs. Considering there’s a lack of data on ant populations from parts of Asia and Africa, there are likely to be gaping holes in the knowledge of ant diversity.
When did ants evolve?
Ants emerged between 140 and 168 million years ago, according to a 2006 study. This was within the Jurassic period (199.6 million to 145.5 million years ago), characterized by a warm and lush wet climate that gave rise to an abundance of life – most notably a wealth of dinosaurs.
It is believed that ants evolved at this time as it was also the period when flowering plants emerged, providing small insects with food that allowed them to thrive and diversify.