It’s similar to counting sand grains on a beach to count ants. However, six researchers showed they were capable of the job. The most recent and thorough estimate of the number of ants in the globe has been made: 20 quadrillions. More biomass than all wild birds and mammals combined, which amounts to 12 megatons.

Ants are crucial ecosystem engineers because they move soil, disperse seeds, and recycle organic material. The distribution of ants worldwide has been studied, but no global estimate of their population has been made.

In order to discover 489 papers with rigorous enough techniques of gathering and counting ants to be included, researchers searched through 12,000 records from databases in numerous languages, including Bulgarian and Indonesian. The majority of the studies randomly included ant samples while focusing on more general issues of biodiversity and evolution rather than ants specifically. The crew was taken aback by how dense ants are in the tropics, where they are most prevalent in savannas and damp woods.

The team reveals today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the new estimate is two to twenty times larger than earlier ones. However, is probably more accurate, according to the scientists, as it was the first “bottom-up” effort to rely on actual counts of ants captured globally.