“Scientists have estimated the number of ants in the world, which is unimaginable,” said a study author.
According to the study, there are 20 quadrillion ants in the world— 20 followed by 15 zeros.
That’s about 2.5 million ants per person.
There are approximately 20 quadrillion ants roaming the world, according to scientists.
The staggering number – 20,000,000,000,000,000 – means that there would be about 2.5 million ants per individual today.
“It’s unimaginable,” Patrick Schultheiss, lead author of the study, told the Washington Post. “We can’t simply imagine 20 quadrillion ants in one pile, for example. It just doesn’t work.”
The number was published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.
“We estimated that 20 quadrillion average-sized ants correspond to a dry weight or ‘biomass’ of about 12 million tons of carbon,” the study’s authors said in a blog post.
That means if all the ants were taken off the ground and dried, they would weigh more than all wild birds and mammals combined, according to the study.
They would be as heavy as well as about a fifth of the dry weight of every person on earth.
To arrive at the figure, scientists combed through 489 published studies that surveyed the number of ants in a given environment.
It’s unclear whether this astronomical number has remained constant or grown over time, Schultheiss told the Post. A 2019 study found that up to half of the world’s insects may have disappeared since the 1970s, Insider previously reported.
But when it comes to ants, “we have no idea,” Schultheiss said.
With more than 12,500 known species, ants are present on almost every continent, according to Antmaps.org, a site that shows where ants have been seen in the world.
An average ant colony can contain 250,000 individuals, previously reported.
Ants are vital to keeping our environments healthy, according to the Harvard Forest website.
They aerate the ground, meaning that water and oxygen can reach plant roots. They move seeds around and take them down to their tunnels, where they often leave new plants.
They repel pests and keep forests clean by eating rotting wood and other decaying materials. And they are an important food source for other animals including, sometimes, humans.
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