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Is An Ant An Animal? (Ant Taxonomy Explained)

An ant is an insect, which is considered a class of animals. In taxonomic terms, an ant is an animal belonging to the kingdom Animalia, specifically in the class Insecta.

Ant Head
Ants are animals in the class Insecta

Ants are abundantly found in all continents of the world apart from Antarctica and have existed in this world for over 140 million years!

Let’s take a closer look into these tiny little busy creatures…

Ant Taxonomy / Classification

Ants are regarded as animals and they fall under the class of insects in the animal world. In the taxonomic hierarchy, ants belong to…

Ant Taxonomy:
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumArthropoda
ClassInsecta
OrderHymenoptera
FamilyFormicidae

The highest rank within the hierarchy is the kingdom and all the animals existing on the planet belong to the kingdom Animalia. The above-mentioned hierarchy is the same for all kinds of ants. 

More severe taxonomic classification and differentiation among the ants of different kinds are carried out by the use of Subfamily, Genus, and Species within the hierarchy.

For example, the red imported fire ants ( Solenopsis invicta) belong to the subfamily Myrmicinae, genus Solenopsis and species invicta. 

Do Ants Eat Other Animals?

Most ants are omnivorous, meaning they eat food obtained from both plant and animal-based sources.

They are scavengers who feed on everything, as long as it’s edible they will feed on it. So their diet can include plant leaves, fruits, seeds, nectar, honey, dead animals, fungi, other small organisms, and their eggs, etc. 

However, the diet can oftentimes vary a lot depending on the species type. For example, leafcutter ants are known to mainly feed on plant-based food sources whereas fire ants are truly omnivorous and feed on both the meat of dead insects and on some of the plant-based sources like fruits and seeds. 

Ant nest tunnels
Ant nests help to aerate the soil

Are Ants The Strongest Animals?

An ant is not the strongest animal in the world. There are millions of species in the world that are much stronger than an ant, including almost every mammal and bird.

An ant can lift 50 times its weight, however this is irrelevant to its overall strength, which is still incredibly weak.

Ants are undoubtedly one of the strongest animals in terms of their weight and size however even in that category they fall behind in strength to the dung beetle which can pull items about 1,141 times its own weight and hence dung beetles are regarded as the strongest insect in the world.

Rhinoceros beetles also possess incredible strength and are many times stronger than ants.

When put into competition with other animals in terms of sheer weight carrying strength excluding the relative body weight factor, even then ants do not come close because of their tiny size. 

Read More: How Strong would a Human-Sized Ant Be?

Ant Carrying Leaf
Ants can carry 50x their own weight, but their overall strength is weak owing to their small size

Is An Ant a Useful Animal?

Ants are tremendously beneficial for the earth and the ecosystem.

Here are some of the reasons why they are so important…

  • Ants’ tunneling activities help aerate the soil and allow water to penetrate deeper into the earth, which plays a big role in improving the overall structure of the soil.
  • Ants take care of decomposing animal and plant parts which further helps in keeping the environment clean. Ants typically build their nests underground and they bring food sources from all around the place into their nest. Their excretory materials and the food leftovers further lead to the enhancement of soil fertility with time.
  • Ants play a key role in distributing plant seeds around a wide range of places. Ants in most cases carry whatever food item they find into their underground nest chambers and as they are omnivorous, they often bring in fruits and seeds into their home. If the soil is fertile enough many of these seeds can end up growing into newer plants. 
  • Ants are known for preying on a wide variety of organisms, ranging from termites to slightly larger animals like caterpillars. Also, ants themselves act as food for animals like birds, humans, anteaters, etc. So they are undoubtedly an important part of this ecosystem.
Ants collecting food
Ants help spread seeds to new areas

Is an Ant a Mammal?

Ants are insects, not mammals. Ants have little similarity with mammals. 

All of the mammals are vertebrates, contain an endoskeleton, gives birth without laying eggs through a cycle of fertilization and gestation period. Also, the number of offspring they produce at every reproductive cycle is few and can be easily accounted for.

Whereas ants like all other insects are invertebrates, contain an exoskeleton, produce off springs via the process of laying eggs, and produce an unaccountable number of off springs at a time.  

Conclusion

Ants are animals that are classified as insects. So like all members of the Insecta class ants contain six legs, a hard exoskeleton, and a body that is primarily divided into three parts: the head, thorax, and abdomen. 

Ants play an important role as ecosystem engineers as they regulate the soil health of a particular region through their rigorous digging and nesting habits. They often enter in symbiotic relationships with certain plants where they protect the plant from parasites and other enemies and in turn the plant provides them with food. 

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