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Scientists estimate how many species of ants there are on Earth

Estimates are two to 20 times higher compared to the previous ones, according to researchpublished in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.

Sabine S. Nooten, an insect ecologist and interim principal investigator at the University of Würzburg in Germany, told CNN on Tuesday: “We were surprised at the large number of ants we found. see. Nooten is a co-author of the study.

“We hardly had any expectations because the numbers floating around earlier in the scientific literature were essentially educated guesses and they had very little empirical data to work with.” , She added. “And, this is new to our study because we’ve aggregated data from a lot of experimental studies.”

Renowned biologists Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson previously estimated the world at between 1 million and 10 million ants. According to research, 1% of the world’s estimated insect population is 1 million billion individuals.

However, the team of this latest study relied on a new estimate based on observational evidence from an expanded dataset of globally distributed ant patterns. The authors identified and evaluated 465 relevant studies, covering 1,306 sampling sites, covering all major continents and biomes where ants inhabited.

According to Nooten, scientists can use the comprehensive dataset of 80-year research to predict what future communities or environments will look like. For example, the team estimates the number of terrestrial ants, which are densely inhabited in tropical and subtropical regions, such as the forests of South America, at around 3 million billion.

“We could have seen variation over time in our dataset,” co-author Patrick Schultheiss, an interim principal investigator at the University of Würzburg, told CNN. Schultheiss emphasized that changes in agriculture or how the forest has been exploited may have an impact on ant populations.
An estimated 3 million million ants live on the ground.

“No one has ever gathered data on ants on a global scale,” says Schultheiss. He added that while they know from studies that ant populations in the rainforests of West Africa are very high compared to areas in the Arctic, “we don’t know what the picture is – how many how many numbers”.

According to the study, the estimated ant abundance exceeds the total mass – i.e. total mass – of wild birds and mammals and is equivalent to about 20% of human biomass, base on the research.

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“A surprisingly common question I get is ‘How many species of ants are there on Earth?’ and despite some estimates, none of the numbers being used feel strong,” Adam Hart, a professor of communication science at the University of Gloucestershire, UK, told CNN. Hart, who is also a professor of communication science at the University of Gloucestershire, UK. vice president of the Royal Insect Society of Great Britain, was not involved in the study.

“This new study, based on nearly 500 studies around the world, gives us the best answer to this conundrum. What’s amazing is not just the overall number, but the percentage of biomass. that ants represent – one-fifth of the biomass of all humans. It really underscores how important ants really are,” he added.

A ‘conservative’ number

Global datasets can help track changes in the environment by looking at changes in ant populations.

The estimated overall figure is almost inconceivable, but the study authors say it is “cautious”. This is because they cannot collect all the data they want to include.

For example, many species of ants live underground, but no studies have been able to provide numbers on numbers, Schultheiss said. There are ants very far north and very far south, like the subpolar but there isn’t enough research on ants in those areas to make a mathematical estimate.

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According to Schultheiss, citizen scientists can fill these gaps, who said non-scientists, even school students, can contribute to the dataset in an impactful way. by simply collecting leaf litter, kicking all the ants out and counting how many there are.

“We hope to inspire people to, first of all, respect nature, enjoy nature, because it’s amazing what ants can do and at what scale. But, if they’re available willing to contribute to science in a very simple way, even very simple data can be of great value,” he added.

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