Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae ( /fɔrˈmɪsɨdiː/) and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. More than 12,500 out of an estimated total of 22,000 species have been classified. They are easily identified by their elbowed antennae and a distinctive node-like structure that forms a slender waist.

Ants form colonies that range in size from a few dozen predatory individuals living in small natural cavities to highly organised colonies that may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals. Larger colonies consist mostly of sterile wingless females forming castes of "workers", "soldiers", or other specialised groups. Nearly all ant colonies also have some fertile males called "drones" and one or more fertile females called "queens". The colonies sometimes are described as superorganisms because the ants appear to operate as a unified entity, collectively working together to support the colony.

Ants have colonised almost every landmass on Earth. The only places lacking indigenous ants are Antarctica and a few remote or inhospitable islands. Ants thrive in most ecosystems and may form 15–25% of the terrestrial animal biomass. Their success in so many environments has been attributed to their social organisation and their ability to modify habitats, tap resources, and defend themselves. Their long co-evolution with other species has led to mimetic, commensal, parasitic, and mutualistic relationships.

Ant societies have division of labour, communication between individuals, and an ability to solve complex problems. These parallels with human societies have long been an inspiration and subject of study. Many human cultures make use of ants in cuisine, medication, and rituals. Some species are valued in their role as biological pest control agents. Their ability to exploit resources may bring ants into conflict with humans, however, as they can damage crops and invade buildings. Some species, such as the red imported fire ant, are regarded as invasive species, establishing themselves in areas where they have been introduced accidentally.

Read more about Ant:  Etymology, Taxonomy and Evolution, Distribution and Diversity, Morphology, Development and Reproduction, Relationship With Humans

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Famous quotes containing the word ant:

    The owl is abroad, the bat and the toad,
    And so is the cat-a-mountain;
    The ant and the mole sit both in a hole,
    And frog peeps out o’ the fountain.
    Ben Jonson (1572–1637)

    I am not afraid of the priests in the long-run. Scientific method is the white ant which will slowly but surely destroy their fortifications. And the importance of scientific method in modern practical life—always growing and increasing—is the guarantee for the gradual emancipation of the ignorant upper and lower classes, the former of whom especially are the strength of the priests.
    Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–95)

    Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
    Bible: Hebrew Proverbs, 6:6.

    The words were rendered by Samuel Johnson in the opening lines of The Ant: “Turn on the prudent ant thy heedful eyes, Observe her labours, sluggard, and be wise.”