|MadSci Network: Zoology|
Hello there! What a question. What a wonderful, wonderful question. It just so happens that I have the answer to this one on the tip of my tongue, but am I prepared to be the adjudicator between you and your friend? Maybe if you invite me to the lunch! I answer this question so many times a week, because so many people ask me why I am so interested in insects. I reel off the following facts: 95% of all the world's species are insects. New species of insect are being discovered on an almost daily basis, and there is no sign of this trend letting up. If Noah were to fill his Ark again with two of every species, every fourth pair would not be just an insect, but specifically a beetle. Some scientists estimate that 30% of the biomass of the Amazon basin is ants. Now to your question. I'm afraid that Termites compete with ants for the title you describe and because the two come from entirely different orders, I cannot sit on the fence about my answer. Taxonomy (the species naming convention) runs in the following way: Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species. In the identification of ants and termites we can name Kingdom, phylum, and class as Animalia, Arthropoda, Insecta (or uniramia) and then they split. Termites belong to their own order called Isopoda encompassing terrestrial and arboreal species, whereas ants are a family 'Formicoidae' of the order 'Hymenoptera'. It seems reasonable by modern estimates that ants make up about 10% of the earth's total biomass, and that termites could make up a similar figure again although due to their more widespread nature and more precise taxonomy, ants are regarded as having clinched the title as largest single constituent group of the earth's biomass. Whoever buys lunch, make mine a red apple and Brie sandwich with lettuce and raisins. If it's a picnic, watch out for the ants..... and the termites. Cheers, Justin.
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