Nigel R. Franks

University of Bristol

The ants comprise a single family, the Formicidae, within the superfamily Vespoidea and the order Hymenoptera. There are 16 extant subfamilies of ants with a total of 296 extant genera. Some 9000 to 10,000 species of ants have been described, and it is estimated that there may be 15,000 species of ants alive in the world today. The earliest known fossil ants are from the Cretaceous (ca 105—110 mya), but ants probably did not become common until the Eocene (ca 45 mya).

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