German and Chinese researchers say they know the approximate number of ants currently crawling across the planet. Based on data from 489 ant studies, they determined there are 20 quadrillion individual ants, with a dry weight far heavier than that of all the wild birds and mammals on the planet combined. The number 20 quadrillion is 20 followed by 15 zeros.
For every human, there are nearly 2.5 million ants scurrying, eating and breeding across the landscape. “They are very important for nutrient cycling, decomposition processes, plant seed dispersal and the perturbation of soil,” said entomologist Patrick Schultheiss of Germany’s University of Würzburg.