The Earth’s Army

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How many ants live on Earth?

Researcher Mark Wong and his colleagues set out to find out.

They started by thoroughly analyzing almost 500 studies on ants spanning every continent.

Their final conclusion? A whopping 20 quadrillion ants – that’s 16 zeros – roam the planet to help disperse seeds, pollinate plants and annoy homeowners.

That number easily surpasses birds and mammals on Earth in terms of both numbers and biomass, CNET reported.

Meanwhile, the researchers also wanted to measure the volume of the world’s ants. In a new paper, they explained that the total biomass of the ants is about 12 megatons of dry carbon.

“Impressively, this exceeds the biomass of all the world’s wild birds and mammals combined,” Wong said.

More amazing still: This number is likely a conservative estimate. Wong said there is not enough information about ants living in trees and underground.

Meanwhile, these industrious bugs play a vital role in maintaining the planet’s ecosystem. But they are threatened by the changing climate and could become victims of “dark extinction” – or anonymous extinction – where they may disappear under the radar.

“We need people to rigorously and repeatedly survey and describe the ecological communities of different habitats before they are lost,” Wong noted.

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