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Ants have colonised almost every landmass on Earth.
The only places lacking indigenous ants are Antarctica and a few remote or inhospitable islands.
Sanskrit vamrah, Latin formīca, Greek μύρμηξ mýrmēx, Old Church Slavonic mraviji, Old Irish moirb, Old Norse maurr, Dutch mier.
The family Formicidae belongs to the order Hymenoptera, which also includes sawflies, bees, and wasps. Wilson and his colleagues identified the fossil remains of an ant (Sphecomyrma) that lived in the Cretaceous period.
Genera surviving today comprise 56% of the genera in Baltic amber fossils (early Oligocene), and 92% of the genera in Dominican amber fossils (apparently early Miocene).
Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the Cretaceous period, about 99 million years ago, and diversified after the rise of flowering plants.
Their long co-evolution with other species has led to mimetic, commensal, parasitic, and mutualistic relationships.
These parallels with human societies have long been an inspiration and subject of study.
Online databases of ant species, including Ant Base and the Hymenoptera Name Server, help to keep track of the known and newly described species.
Ants are distinct in their morphology from other insects in having elbowed antennae, metapleural glands, and a strong constriction of their second abdominal segment into a node-like petiole.