about the episode
There are about 4 quadrillion ants on Earth. That’s 4 with 15 zeros behind it! You can find them all over the world – except for Antarctica – and there are about 14,000 different species.
They live deep in the ground and high in trees, in all kinds of different conditions. But how successfully ants spread across our planet, we did not yet know.
The researchers have now collected fossils, DNA samples and habitat data to learn how ants — and flowering plants — evolved together over the past 60 million years. It was already known that they arose almost simultaneously – 140 million years ago. If there are more flowering plants, there will be more ants, so it makes sense to take a closer look at how their evolutionary paths are related.
Among other things, what they saw was this: 60 million years ago, when plants in forests evolved to release more water vapor, those forests and soils became wetter. In response, the ants (as well as other benthic animals) sought higher ground. They transfer their activities to the trees.
Some plants have begun to spread across the planet from forests to drier regions. The researchers showed the ants that followed it. Perhaps the plants helped them a bit by growing food that made the ants happy. Because the ants, in turn, helped spread the seeds, making it a win-win migration.
It shows once again how everything in nature is interconnected and that’s another warning: if the climate changes and that has an impact on plants, it will also have consequences for the animals they sympathize with.
Read more about the search here: Ants took over the world by following flowering plants out of prehistoric forests.
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