Nearly every homeowner has dealt with an ant infestation at some point in their lives, and while most people are familiar with ants as a pest, few people understand the long and interesting evolutionary history of this common insect.

Anyone that’s interested in understanding ants needs to understand their evolution, and how they’ve changed over the years to become what they are today.

Origins

Perhaps the most surprising fact about the evolutionary history of ants is that they have been on Earth for a much longer period of time than humans. Evidence suggests that ants originated between 140 and 160 million years ago. This means ants existed during the Jurassic period, the same age when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

It is believed that the ant population was extremely small until flowers and other plants began to flourish, providing them with a plentiful food source. Once ants had access to food, new species formed, filling different roles in the environment. For example, some ants migrated to the trees, others formed colonies on the forest floor, and some other types lived in the leaves that fell from trees.

Image via Flickr by Tanki

Shifting Continents

One of the most common questions people have when it comes to the evolution of ants is why we see such different species across the world. The reason that the types of ants can differ so widely has to do with something called continental drift.

When ants first came into existence, the multiple continents that exist today were combined into two supercontinents. Eventually, these continents separated due to plate tectonics. In addition to creating several distinct continents, this also separated ant species. Over time, ants had to adapt to their new surroundings and climate, which is why ants across the world are extremely different, both in appearance and behavior.

Ants Today

Now that you know a little bit about the evolutionary history of ants, it’s important to learn how this history affects ants today. As mentioned, ants evolved into countless different species. In fact, it is estimated that there are more than 12,500 ant species today. However, some researchers believe there may be as many as 10,000 ant species still undiscovered. This means there may be twice as many ants as any other species in the world.

Another interesting fact about modern ants is that we understand them better than ever before thanks to their DNA. Scientists can study DNA to learn about the differences between ants, including how they respond to their environment and why different ant species have different behaviors.

Stop Ants in Their Tracks

As you can see, ants are one of the most interesting insects in the world, possessing a long evolutionary history. However, despite their fascinating legacy, ants are an annoying pest that most homeowners want to eliminate as quickly as possible. If you want to make sure your home is free from ant infestations, you should be sure to work with a pest control professional.

Pest professionals will be able to examine your home and identify the source of your infestation. They will also be able to tell you the best way to prevent infestations in the future.