Although small, invertebrates have an outsized influence on their environments, pollinating plants, breaking down organic matter and speeding up nutrient cycling. And what they lack in stature, they make up for in diversity. With more than 1 million known species, insects alone vastly outnumber all other invertebrates and vertebrates combined.
Despite their importance and ubiquity, some of the most basic information about invertebrates, such as where they’re most diverse and how many of them there are, remain a mystery. This is especially problematic for conservation scientists trying to stave off global insect declines; you can’t conserve something if you don’t know where to look.
In a U.S. National Science Foundation-supported study in the journal Science Advances, researchers used ants as a proxy to help close major knowledge gaps and hopefully begin reversing these declines.