Before comparing the biomass of ants vs humans, we need to understand how many are there. Ants are diligently constructing habitats on all continents except Antarctica. They disperse seeds, accelerate the decomposition of dead vegetation, and agitate the soil.
They are also hunted down and consumed. You may be completely unaware of your dependence on them.
Ants comprise 15,700 distinct species and varieties. These six-legged creatures are vital to the ecosystem since they sustain the food chain.
Despite their widespread occurrence, their populations are declining due to invasive species, ecosystem degradation, and climate change. Let’s learn more about their biomass and how they compare to ours.
In ecology, biomass refers to the diverse array of organisms present within a specific location or ecosystem. Producers are plants that convert light energy into chemical energy via photosynthesis.
Primary consumers are those species of organisms that consume producers. Secondary consumers are animals that consume primary consumers.
Each of these describes the process of generating biomass in an environment where all consumers consume one another.
The varying quantities of biomass produced by diverse organisms are critical for the proper functioning of the environment.
The ecological pyramid illustrates the distribution of living organisms along the food chain, wherein their energy production and productivity determine their positions.
A productivity pyramid illustrates the quantity of output at each trophic level, whereas a biomass pyramid depicts the amount of biomass present at each level. However, production and biomass are frequently intertwined.
Producers, represented by green plants, occupy the base of an ecological pyramid. Herbivores and primary predators occupy the intermediate tier.
Sustaining at the apex are secondary and tertiary carnivores. Simply put, biomass is the total weight of organisms in a given area.
The Ant Explained
Despite being common invertebrates, ants possess some remarkable characteristics. They are reportedly capable of communicating with one another to the extent that their groupings function as if they were superorganisms.
A significant number of ants may inhabit a given colony. Certain species may possess anywhere from two or tens of thousands of females.
A queen or queens control the community. The colony comprises three distinct species of adult ants: the queen, female ants, and male ants.
1. Queen Ants
Queen ants occupy the largest portion of the colony. They are avian and solely exist to produce eggs. Queens have the potential to survive for thirty years. The number and species of ants in the nest determine whether or not the colony contains a queen.
2. Female Ants
Female ants are smaller than the queen and are incapable of reproduction. Moreover, they lack wings.
Their maximum lifespan is three years. Female workers or soldier ants are responsible for tending to the progeny, constructing and maintaining the nest, foraging for sustenance, and protecting the colony.
3. Male Ants
The offspring of unfertilized eggs are male ants. Male ants are frequently referred to as drones. They have wings and can reproduce by mating with the queen.
Male ant antennae are considerably larger and more diminutive in size than those of female ant antennae. Males only depart the group to procreate for one day. They typically perish ten to fourteen days following mating.
Structured nest groups of ants inhabit trees, the ground, and underground environments. They exhibit a strong social nature. There are over a thousand species of carpenter ants in the genus Camponotus.
These ants thrive in wooden structures and are capable of causing damage. (Similar to termites, but significantly more destructive.) Some species, such as army ants, deviate from the norm by lacking permanent dwellings.
Ants typically consume nectar, seeds, insects, or nectar. Army ants can consume small mammals, birds, and reptiles due to the size and power of their stingers and jaws.
There are numerous species of ants, and they communicate in a variety of methods. The vast majority of ant species communicate via chemicals. Ants emit chemicals that are detectable by other ants through their sensory organs.
A chemical trace will be left by scouting ants at food sources they discover. This will provide directions for the remaining colony laborers to the food sources.
Certain species of wasps and ants will emit a chemical that causes the colony to swarm in response to the threat. The purpose of this chemical is to alert the colony to an impending problem.
Biomass of Ants vs Humans
Individual colonies frequently comprise millions of ants. Each colony is subdivided into groups occupying distinct occupations, including laborers, warriors, and queens.
All of the female employees attend to the queen and her young, maintain the cleanliness of the nest, and forage for sustenance. They perish when males mate with the queen.
You probably know ants inhabit nearly all land masses except Greenland, Iceland, and a few island states. Wasps and bees are the closest relatives.
This should not be surprising because these active and social insects have been prevalent since the Mesozoic era. It is estimated that the earliest known fossil of an ant dates back to the Cretaceous, or approximately 100 million years ago.
Over the coming months, the global population of humans will likely surpass 8 billion. When compared to ants, that does not stand out.
Scientists’ most comprehensive analysis of the global population to date was estimated to be around twenty quadrillion—approximately 2.5 million ants per person.
Ants comprise roughly 20% of human biomass, equivalent to the carbon dioxide produced by more than 8 billion people worldwide.
The ant’s mass is approximately 12 megatons, comparable in magnitude to the combined weight of two Pyramids of Giza.
Carbon content is frequently employed as a weight-determining parameter. Twenty quadrillion average-sized ants were discovered to be equivalent to twelve million tonnes of carbon by dried weight, or biomass.
How big is this? Comprising approximately 20% of the total human biomass, this quantity surpasses the combined biomass of wild birds and animals.
Approximately 50% of the desiccated weight of an ant is carbon. The cumulative mass of all extant ants would be further increased by factoring in the mass of additional organism components.
Are Ants Important?
An estimated 12,000 species of ants are recognized as existing. Most of them are crimson, black, or brown, and their bodies consist of three sections.
Although ant nests are typically found in dead plants, leaf litter, or soil, they can occasionally enter human dwellings. They are approximately 1.2 inches (3cm) in width and 4,000ths of an inch (1mm) in length.
Since they can cause damage, ants can be bothersome. For example, carpenter ants can cause significant damage to a residence by constructing holes and nests in adjacent wooden structures. Red Imported Fire Ants will sting any individuals or animals that approach them to defend their colonies.
Ants will traverse corpses and deceased creatures. Additionally, they walk on any other debris that can accumulate on cooking surfaces and disseminate pathogenic microorganisms. Ants can also chew into food packages.
Most ants are beneficial, including to humans. Consider the quantity of organic matter 20 quadrillion ants consume, recycle, and discard.
In truth, ants are indispensable to the proper functioning of biological processes to the extent that they could be considered ecological engineers.
Ants undoubtedly have a significant impact on virtually all terrestrial ecosystems. They perform critical functions such as nutrient transportation, organic matter decomposition, seed dispersal, and soil disturbance.
Ants comprise many insect species, each of which performs many distinct functions. Their environmental significance is immense due to their widespread occurrence.
Some birds, for instance, rely on ants for assistance in locating prey. Numerous plant species provide sustenance or sanctuary for ants in return for their protection or the opportunity to disseminate seeds.
Numerous ants consume other insects, thereby contributing to the control of insect populations. The rapid decline in insect populations worldwide can be attributed to climate change, and pollutants.
Although ant infestations are undesirable in most households and kitchens, they are essential to the environment. Here’s how:
- By constructing their underground colonies, ants improve the soil’s oxygen content, enriching it with vital nutrients required for plant growth.
- Ants prey on aphids and termites, which are bothersome insects but significantly more hazardous to plants and animals than ants.
- Ants will consume virtually anything that will fit in their jaws. Seeds are included in this. Ants typically consume only a fraction of the seed, permitting the remainder to germinate in the soil and aid in dispersing plant and flower species.
- Additionally, ants aid in decomposing deceased vegetation and vegetables by consuming them.
- Due to their scavenging nature, ants will collect dead animals, plants, and other debris from the sidewalk or street. They assist in the remediation of the environment.
- Lastly, ants constitute a component of the food chain. Ants are preyed on and consumed in nature by avian and insect species.
We don’t even stand a chance when we compare the biomass of ants vs humans. This is probably due to their mass numbers.
This doesn’t change the fact that they benefit the environment. Colonies of ants aerate and enrich the soil through nutrient recycling from decomposing matter, insects, and deceased animals. This maintains a stable environment.
The movement of oxygen and water through the soil is facilitated by ant tunnels, which are beneficial for the soil and plant roots. Ants aid in decomposing insects, deceased animals, and organic matter. Once the ants have vacated the tunnels, bacteria and fungi flourish.