Ants are everywhere and most people seem to think of them exclusively as a nuisance. What the average person does not realize is how truly unique and exceptional they are. Here are some examples of the unique characteristics of ants that make them such fascinating creatures.
There is an often-quoted figure that ants can miraculously hold over 100 times their own weight. While this figure is not always accurate, it’s not far from the truth. Even the weakest ants can carry about three times their own body weight. This allows them to carry either carcasses or foliage back to their colony to distribute among the workers and the queen. In fact, in the most extreme cases, these bugs have been observed hauling objects up to 100 times their weight, which may lend credibility to the myth.
People assume that, because of its size, the common ant will die within a few months or years at most. This however, is inaccurate. For example, the common black garden ant that you are most likely to see outside has a life span of about 15 years. This may seem astonishing, but that is short compared to the colony’s queen, which will live until she is decades old. It is not unusual to see an ant live over 20 years; the oldest recorded ant lived to be 30 years old.
The highest estimates on the global population of ants is over 10 quadrillion. For a sense of perspective, that’s about 1.5 million times more than there are people on earth. All together, they are estimated to have the same amount of biomass as the total human population. Even more interesting, ants are assumed to make up about a quarter of the biomass present in some of the more densely populated areas of the planet.
These tiny insects have proved smart and resourceful in their use other life forms and species. For example, one of the most sought-after resources in the ant kingdom is the sugary byproducts from other species. To ensure a steady supply, ants will maintain a small colony of insects that produce these byproducts. They have been observed carrying aphids from leaf to leaf so that the ants can take the sugar the aphids produce. These bugs also do not hesitate in using other ant species or colony for their own gain. Usually this is done when one stronger species takes hold of a colony of a weaker species, but can be done within the same species as well. For example, the Amazon ants will raid the colony of Formica ants. The enslaved Formica ants will then be used to raise the offspring of the Amazon queen.
There is fossilized evidence of ants that lived about 92 million years ago. The extinct species was found in New Jersey; researchers believe the evolutionary line of today extend as far back as 130 million years, which would place them in the Cretaceous period, the same period in which the triceratops was dominant
Overall, ants are fascinating creatures when examines closely. They have a genetic line that dates them back to the age of dinosaurs. And are strong enough to carry creatures three times their size. Not to mention intelligent enough to use other species to their advantage.