Could the world’s ant population fit in a Mini? © Getty Images

Could the world’s ant population fit in a Mini?

If you can’t fit them all into your car, maybe you should check your underwear.

Asked by: Samuel Cronin, London


There are around 12,000 species of ants described so far, with perhaps another 2000 or so, yet to be discovered. Some estimates suggest there may be as many as a quadrillion (1015) individual ants altogether.

Packed into a cube of compressed ant, this would occupy about 8,000 metres-cubed, or about 3.2 Olympic swimming pools full, so you’d need a much bigger car than a Mini. But of course, that’s not a terribly natural population density for ants. In the Amazon rainforest, ants have been surveyed at 3.5 million per acre. You’d need more than 285 million acres of forest at that density, or a single uninterrupted colony the size of France and Spain combined.


Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.