Ant societies have division of labour, communication between individuals, and the ability to solve complex problems. These parallels with human societies have long been an inspiration and subject of study.
Amazing Facts About the Ant
- Ants are social insects which form colonies that range in size from a few dozen predatory individuals living in small natural cavities to highly organised colonies which may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals.
- Ants communicate and cooperate by using chemicals (pheromones) that can alert others to danger or lead them to a promising food source.
- Ant communities are headed by a queen or queens, whose function in life is to lay thousands of eggs that will ensure the survival of the colony. Workers (the ants typically seen by humans) are wingless females that never reproduce, but instead forage for food, care for the queen’s offspring, work on the nest, protect the community, and perform many other duties.
- Male ants often have only one role—mating with the queen. After they have performed this function, they may die.
- More than 20,000 known ant species occur around the world, yet only 12,500 have so far been classified.
- Ants can lift and carry many many times their own weight. In fact the tiny leafcutter ant (pictured at the top of the page) can lift and carry in its jaws something 50 times its own body weight of about 500mg.
- Army ants may prey on much larger animals such as reptiles, birds, or even small mammals.
- Ants represent 25 per cent or more of the animal biomass on the planet.
- All the ants on the planet weigh about as much as all the humans.
- Ants emerged along with flowering plants some 130 million years ago; by contrast, Homo, from which humans evolved, diverged only 2 million years ago.
- Type: Insect
- Life span: Several weeks to several years
- Size: 2 - 25 mm
- Habitat: Ants thrive in most ecosystems, and may form 15–25% of the terrestrial biomass.