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More than 12,000 species are currently known (with upper estimates of the potential existence of about 22,000) (see the article List of ant genera), with the greatest diversity in the tropics.Taxonomic studies continue to resolve the classification and systematics of ants.Ants evolved from a lineage within the aculeate wasps, and a 2013 study suggests that they are a sister group of the Apoidea. The specimen, trapped in amber dating back to around 92 million years ago, has features found in some wasps, but not found in modern ants.During the Cretaceous period, a few species of primitive ants ranged widely on the Laurasian supercontinent (the Northern Hemisphere).Ants thrive in most ecosystems and may form 15–25% of the terrestrial animal biomass.
These parallels with human societies have long been an inspiration and subject of study.
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.
Ants occupy a wide range of ecological niches and exploit many different food resources as direct or indirect herbivores, predators and scavengers.
Most ant species are omnivorous generalists, but a few are specialist feeders.