Ants are not mammals. They are insects that live together in large groups called colonies. With more than 14,000 known species, ants are some of the most populous insects in the world.
While ants and mammals both belong to the kingdom Animalia, they cannot be any more different from each other. Ants are found in the class Insecta, which comprises all insects, the likes of flies, grasshoppers, and fleas.
Under this class, ants are in Order Hymenoptera along with wasps and bees. Their scientific name is Formicidae.
Characteristics Of Mammals
Some of the largest and most intelligent species in the world are mammals. Mammals live in almost every terrain, from deserts to mountains, to oceans. For instance, the biggest land animal, the African bush elephant, as well as the largest animal on earth, the blue whale, are mammals.
Primates are the most intelligent creatures judging from the size and structure of their brains. The most intelligent of them is the human being. On average, mammals are bigger because of their rather complex body metabolisms and functions.
The smallest land mammal, the Etruscan shrew, weighs 14 ounces and measures around 1.57 inches. This is, by comparison, several sizes bigger than the largest ant.
Mammals have several distinguishing characteristics that are unique to them. These characteristics are what set them apart and why we can differentiate an insect from, say, a kangaroo. The most defining characteristics of mammals include the following:
- They are warm-blooded– This means that their internal body temperature is maintained at a constant level regardless of external conditions. For instance, the normal human temperature is 37⁰C and only fluctuates by a small margin under extreme weather conditions.
- Their bodies are covered with hair or fur– The skins of mammals are not usually bare aside from sea mammals. They are covered with hair or fur, which could be dependant on their habitats as an adaptative measure. Polar bears are known to have very thick fur on their bodies as they live in very cold places. Human beings have hair on different parts of their bodies as well.
- They give birth to live young ones: The babies of mammals are usually born alive after developing in the mother’s uterus. The time spent in the uterus before a young one is born is called the gestation period, and it varies from species to species. For instance, while it is seven months for a white-tailed deer, it is twenty-two months for an elephant.
- Mammals have mammary glands: When they give birth, mammals feed their young ones using milk from their mammary glands. This mode of feeding, called weaning, goes on until the offspring can fend for themselves. In human beings, the weaning stage usually lasts for six months.
- They have complex brains: As aforementioned, mammals are the most intelligent animals. Their brains are comparatively larger and are, therefore, able to do things that other animals can’t. That is why you can train a dog or a cat but can’t train an ant to do a dance for you. Also, human beings have developed advanced communication styles, such as languages.
The features above are the distinguishing features of mammals. To find out whether ants are mammals or not, let us assess their characteristics and judge whether they match those of mammals.
What Are The Characteristics Of Ants?
As we have already established, ants belong to the order Hymenoptera of insects, which also comprises wasps and bees. As such, most characteristics of ants are similar to most insects. Still, just how similar or different are ants from mammals?
- Ants are cold-blooded animals: contrary to mammals, the internal body temperature of ants changes with that of their external environment. This means that when it is very hot, their body temperature will also become heated. In situations like these, ants would have to move to places with more suitable temperatures for survival.
- Ants have hair on their bodies: When you look closely, you will notice ants have strands of hair on their bodies. These hairs are very similar to those found in human beings as they have the same chemical components. Ants use these strands of hairs for different reasons, but mainly as sensory parts to sense stimuli from their surroundings. One ant species, the Saharan silver ant, has its body covered in hair for heat regulation.
- Ants reproduce asexually. Most species of ants do not need to mate to reproduce. They tend to reproduce through asexual parthenogenesis and cloning. Reproduction is the duty of the queen ants, and each colony has one or two, depending on the size of the colony.
- Ants do not have mammary glands: Unlike mammals, ants do not feed their young ones using milk as they do not have mammary glands. Instead, the young ones are kept in the colonies and provided for by the worker ants until they are strong enough to start working.
- Ants have simple brains: An ant has a tiny, simple brain. An ant’s brain contains about 250,000 neurons, which is a stark contrast to the billions of neurons found in mammals. Still, a colony of ants has a collective brainpower equivalent to that of several mammals.
This is to say that collectively, ants can be pretty intelligent. They are social insects with established colonies, systems, and communication strategies among themselves.
These characteristics of ants show that ants can’t be any more different from mammals, even with a few similarities like hair-covered bodies.
Why Are Ants Classified As Insects?
Like all other insects, ants have an outer body known as an exoskeleton. They also have three body parts: head, thorax, and abdomen. They breathe through spiracles found on each side of their bodies- oxygen flows into their general body cavities.
Additionally, ants have three pairs of legs and two pairs of appendages on their head: mandibles and maxillae. These are for biting and chewing food, respectively.
As per their characteristics, ants are, without a doubt, insects and not mammals. For one, they are not warm-blooded, and neither do they have complex brain structures.
Furthermore, they do not give birth to live young ones or have mammary glands to feed their young ones. While ants have hairy bodies just like mammals, this similarity is too mundane to group ants as mammals.