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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.
Their ecological dominance is demonstrated by their biomass: ants are estimated to contribute 15–20 % (on average and nearly 25% in the tropics) of terrestrial animal biomass, exceeding that of the vertebrates.
Ants vary in colour; most ants are red or black, but a few species are green and some tropical species have a metallic lustre.
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).
Termites, although sometimes called 'white ants', are not ants.
By the Oligocene and Miocene, ants had come to represent 20–40% of all insects found in major fossil deposits.
Of the species that lived in the Eocene epoch, around one in 10 genera survive to the present.
Larger colonies consist of various castes of sterile, wingless females, most of which are workers (ergates), as well as soldiers (dinergates) and other specialised groups.
Ants are eusocial insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera.
Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the Cretaceous period, about 99 million years ago, and diversified after the rise of flowering plants.
They were scarce in comparison to the populations of other insects, representing only about 1% of the entire insect population.
Ants became dominant after adaptive radiation at the beginning of the Paleogene period.