Why Ants Rule the World

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Count
on ants to be the first uninvited guests to show up at a picnic.
Their party-crashing feats show just how productive and important
they are and hint at why they thrive in just about any habitat.

It hasn’t always
been an ant’s world. Scientists estimate modern-day ants first evolved
about 120 million years ago. But the fossil record suggests that
ants at this time weren’t the prevalent insect that they are today.
Not until 60 million years later, when some ants adapted to the
new world of flowering plants and diversified their diets, did the
critters achieve
ecological dominance
.

Since then
they’ve had a successful run of the planet [Image
Gallery
].

Scientists
estimate that about 20,000 ant species crawl the Earth. Taxonomists
have classified more than 11,000 species, which account for at least
one-third of all insect biomass. The combined heft of ants in the
Brazilian Amazon is about four times greater than the combined mass
of all of the mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, according
to one survey.

Read
the rest of the article

April
7, 2009

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