Ants and their ancestors exhibit strikingly similar body structures

Ants and their ancestors exhibit strikingly similar body structures

In a recent study published in the journal Current Biology, researchers found that all modern ants, which number nearly 16,000 species, are descendants of a common extinct ancestor. The analysis also revealed that modern ants lived alongside their ancient ant relatives and maintained a consistent body structure over 100 million years of evolution.

The research focused on the discovery of the youngest known stem ants preserved in 77 million-year-old amber from North Carolina. The similarities between these North Carolina ants and other preserved stem ants were described as “striking.” It was determined that the life spans of these ancient ants overlapped with the earliest modern ant species.

Interestingly, while many species went extinct during the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction event around 66 million years ago, ants managed to survive. This event led to faunal turnover, where modern animals coexisted with their ancient counterparts. Ants, in particular, maintained a remarkably similar body structure throughout this period.

The researchers noted that this persistence of body structure suggests that ants were able to adapt to changing ecological niches and extinction events. Despite not understanding why certain ant species died out while others survived, it was observed that ants, along with other insects and arthropods, experienced faunal turnover rather than mass extinctions.

Overall, the study highlights the longevity of ants over hundreds of millions of years, showcasing their ability to adapt and thrive in various environments. The unique evolutionary history of ants sheds light on the complex processes that have shaped Earth’s biodiversity.

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