Scientists have estimated the number of ants on earth, which is “unthinkable,” said one of the study’s authors.
According to the study, there are 20 four billion ants on earth — 20 followed by 15 zeroes.
That’s about 2.5 million ants per person.
An estimated 20 quadrillion ants roam the earth, scientists have estimated.
The astonishing number – 20,000,000,000,000,000 – means that there would be about 2.5 million ants per person living today.
“It’s unthinkable,” Patrick Schultheiss, lead author of the study, told the Washington Post. “We just can’t imagine 20 quadrillion ants in a heap, for example. It just doesn’t work.”
The number was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.
“We estimated that 20 four billion average-sized ants correspond to a dry weight or ‘biomass’ of about 12 million tons of carbon,” the study authors said in a blog post.
That means if all the ants were pulled from the ground and dried, they would weigh more than all wild birds and wild mammals combined, according to the study.
They would also be about as heavy as about a fifth of the dry weight of all humans on earth.
To arrive at the figure, the scientists combed through 489 published studies that looked at the number of ants in a given environment.
It’s unclear whether that astronomical number has remained constant or increased over time, Schultheiss told The Post. A 2019 study found that as many as half of the world’s insects may have gone extinct 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 found on nearly every continent, according to Antmaps.org, a website that shows where ants have been found in the world.
An average ant colony can contain 250,000 individuals, Insider previously reported.
Ants are vital to keeping our environment healthy, according to the Harvard Forest website.
They aerate the soil, which means water and oxygen can reach the plant roots. They move the seeds down into their tunnels, where new plants often sprout.
They prey on vermin 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.
Read the original article on Business Insider