How do helicopters move? What is the strongest top in the world? Do Santa’s reindeer have jet engines? How many ants are there on Earth?
If your young child makes you pull out your smartphone at every opportunity to answer their incongruous questions, know that the last question here now has an answer.
According to a new estimate from scientists at the University of Hong Kongpublished in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, our planet would thus have 20 billion (“quadrillionin English, beware of false friends) of these little six-legged creatures.
Twenty billiards? Nothing to do with the game of tail and ball: by putting together the data of nearly 500 studies already published, sometimes carried out in the field with strong magnifying glasses and notebooks to count the bugs, the scientists estimated the world population of ants at 20,000 . .000,000,000,000. Or, if you’re too lazy to count the zeros, cheesy 20 million trillion or 20 × 10fifteen.
“Wherever I go, except maybe in Antarctica or near the North Pole, but I don’t go there, because there aren’t any, regardless of cultural differences between humans, whatever the natural environment, there are ants.”I had already written Edward Osborne Wilsongreat American myrmecologist, as remember the washington post.
With over 15,700 known species, then there are many ants. There are even everywhere and for everyone: according to these figures, the Earth would thus harbor 2.5 million of these formicides per living human being.
How much does all this weigh? This was also, of course, calculated. According to this team of scientists led by Patrick Schultheiss, now a researcher at the University of Würzburg, Germany, “20 billion medium-sized ants correspond to a dry weight, or biomass, of about 12 million tons of carbon”.
That’s more than wild birds and mammals combined, and it’s a fifth of the dry weight of the currently living human species.
The next step, explain the researchers responsible for this estimate, is to know if this population is growing or decreasing. Today they are unable to say this with scientific certainty and precision, although some entomologists describe worrying demographic declines in various corners of the globe.