Jonas asked “If every ant was human-sized and you put them all together in space, would they generate enough gravity to become their own planet?” I have absolutely no idea. Let’s find out.

E.O Wilson once wrote that the biomass of all ants was equal to that of all humans. This makes our job a bit easier. They are estimated to account for up to 20% of Terrestrial biomass as of 2000. Biomass is calculated as dry or wet biomass which specifies if the water contained in a living thing is accounted for. Seeing as I prefer my ants alive we will use wet biomass. The wet biomass of humans as of 2019 was around 385 million tonnes. Ants were estimated to be 300 million in the 1980s so will use a range from 300-385 million tonnes for ants.

So up to 385 million tonnes. That’s a lot! The great pyramid of Giza is estimated to weigh 6 million tonnes. You would need 64 Great Pyramids to have the same mass as all ants! Amazing really! So would that be the same mass as a planet? Well… The Earth weighs 5.97237×1024 kg. For those of us (Including me) don’t really understand maths language, that’s 5.9 sextillion tonnes. That is 59 with 23 zeros after it. OK, what about a dwarf planet?

One of the smallest (possible) Dwarf planets in the solar system is 90482 Orcus. It is about 6000 quintillion tonnes. OK, an asteroid then? Yes actually. 162173 Ryugu is an asteroid in our solar system that is around 450 million tonnes which is pretty damn close. Ryugu is about 0.8 km across. A big ball of ants wouldn’t be the same size as their densities would be different. Ryugu has a density of about 1.19 g/cm3 while ants have a density of around 0.49 g/cm3. This brings our grand total ant asteroid to about 1.14 km across*.

Now if we were to scale this up so ants were the size of humans we would have a ball that weighed 20 trillion tonnes as your average ant weighs 700,000 times less than your average person. This would make an asteroid around 120 km across. Around the size of 12 Victoria in our own solar system.

So there. Have an overly complex answer to a simple question. All the ants in the world would be enough to make a small asteroid. Do you have an ant question? Would you like to be bored senseless by the answer? Join our Facebook page and ask there. I am going to lie down now. I don’t like maths. Thanks for reading,

Alex.

*This assumes that all the ants are squished into 1 complete blob which sounds horrific.

Glossary

Biomass- The amount of living matter.

References

Gavin, M. and McGrath‐Champ, S., 2017. Devolving authority: The impact of giving public schools power to hire staff. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources55(2), pp.255-274.

Hölldobler, B. and Wilson, E.O., 2009. The superorganism: the beauty, elegance, and strangeness of insect societies. WW Norton & Company.

Lehner, M., 1997. The complete pyramids. Thames & Hudson.

Luzum, B., Capitaine, N., Fienga, A., Folkner, W., Fukushima, T., Hilton, J., Hohenkerk, C., Krasinsky, G., Petit, G., Pitjeva, E. and Soffel, M., 2011. The IAU 2009 system of astronomical constants: the report of the IAU working group on numerical standards for Fundamental Astronomy. Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy110(4), p.293.

Schultz, T.R., 2000. In search of ant ancestors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences97(26), pp.14028-14029.

Walpole, S.C., Prieto-Merino, D., Edwards, P., Cleland, J., Stevens, G. and Roberts, I., 2012. The weight of nations: an estimation of adult human biomass. BMC public health12(1), p.439.

Watanabe, S., Hirabayashi, M., Hirata, N., Hirata, N., Shimaki, Y., Ikeda, H., Tatsumi, E., Yoshikawa, M., Kikuchi, S., Yabuta, H. and Nakamura, T., 2019. High Porosity Nature of the Top-Shape C-Type Asteroid 162173 Ryugu as Observed by Hayabusa2. LPI, (2132), p.1265.

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