Are Ants Animals?
Yes, ants are animals. In fact, they are one of the most abundant animals on earth with a known total of more than 10,000 species.
It’s easy to think that ants aren’t animals. After all, they look very different from us and other common animals such as cats and dogs.
That’s why in this article, I’ll explain to you why ants are animals by discussing the following:
- Definition of animals and their characteristics
- Why ants are animals
- Ant classification/taxonomy
What Are Animals?
Animals are multicellular and eukaryotic organisms. This means that they’re composed of multiple cells that each have a nucleus. 
They’re also characterized by the following:
Most animals have the ability to move. They make use of energy to move their muscles and locomotory structures like arms, and legs. There are some animals, however, that are immobile. Corals, for example, can’t move and thus seem like plants even when they’re not.
Animals don’t photosynthesize and can’t produce their own food. Instead, they’re heterotrophs or consumers. They depend on other organisms for nutrition and energy.
Animals have specialized sense organs that help them recognize and react to stimuli. These sense organs typically include the eyes, nose, ears, tongue, and skin.
However, some animals may have alternative sense organs such as antennae and bills. These alternatives function differently but produce the same results as the traditional organs.
Respiration is the biochemical process that converts food into energy. It is what fuels cells and allows for metabolic activities to occur.
Animals perform aerobic respiration. They need oxygen to break down glucose and release enough energy to fuel the body. Without it, their cells will fail to function.
Why Are Ants Animals?
Ants are considered animals because they’re multicellular eukaryotes that have the aforementioned characteristics.
Ants Are Capable Of Movement
Ants move around through their thorax muscles and three pairs of segmented legs. With these legs, ants can climb, swim, and generally move from one point to another.
Some ants can even travel at astounding speeds. For instance, the Saharan silver ant can travel 33.7 inches (855 millimeters) in a second. That’s around 108 times its body length per second and equivalent to 360 miles per hour for humans. 
There are also ants capable of flight. For many species, drones and queens can grow wings and fly. Like their legs, these wings are attached and controlled by the thorax.
Ants Are Heterotrophs
Ant cells aren’t capable of photosynthesis and producing their own food. Instead, ants rely on other organisms for nutrition. They often eat other small arthropods and sweets such as nectar or honeydew.
To learn more, see this article on what ants eat.
Ants Have Sensory Organs
Ants have 2 well-developed antennae on the sides of their heads which they use to taste, smell, and hear. They use these antennae to locate food, navigate, and communicate.
They also have a pair of compound eyes which allow them to see. However, they tend to have bad eyesight and some ant species are even completely blind.
Ants Respire Aerobically
Ants breathe in oxygen like us humans. They do so through a complex network of tubes called a tracheal respiratory system. This system relies on the passive diffusion of gas to deliver oxygen to the cells in the body.
To learn more about the ant respiratory system, see this article on how ants breathe.
Classification Of Ants: Ant Taxonomy
Animals are classified into a hierarchical set of categories called taxa. These categories consist of different levels based on shared physical characteristics. 
The table below shows the ant taxonomic hierarchy.
Let’s discuss each of these categories in more detail.
The domain is the broadest taxonomic rank in the biological classification system. It’s broken down based on cellular characteristics namely:
- The presence of a true nucleus
- Lipid composition of the cell membrane and characteristics of the cell wall
The domain consists of 3 groups, Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukarya.
Ants are part of Eukarya because they’re eukaryotes. Their cells contain a true nucleus.
The kingdom further breaks down the domain based on cellular characteristics. The kingdom consists of 6 groups:
As multicellular eukaryotes or animals, ants are under the kingdom Animalia.
The phylum is the largest accepted taxon of organisms with certain evolutionary traits. Organisms at this level are categorized based on physical and internal features. For instance, ants are under the phylum Arthropoda due to their chitin exoskeletons.
The class is defined as a taxonomic rank above the order and below the phylum. It breaks down the groupings of the phylum further by more specific traits.
For example, ants are under the class Insecta (insects) due to the following:
- 3 body part segments (head, thorax, abdomen)
- 3 pairs of legs
- In some cases, 2 pairs of wings
These characteristics make them different from other Arthropods such as eight-legged spiders.
The order further narrows down the class based on more specific traits. For instance, ants are under the order Hymenoptera. Insects in this order have narrow waists, thin membranous wings, and biting-sucking mouthparts.
The family is the taxonomic rank between the genus and order. It classifies organisms based on common characteristics and ancestry. This means that organisms in a Family would have evolved from the same ancestors. As such, all ant types are under the Formicidae family.
Narrower Classifications: Genus and Species
The family is the lowest level classification that’s the same for all ants. Further and narrower classifications distinguish ants from each other.
The genus is the taxonomic rank following the family. Biology defines the genus as the taxonomic rank of species with common attributes.
It includes groups of species that are structurally related. Through these structural similarities, scientists have described more than 300 ant genera.
The species is the fundamental unit of classification in Taxonomy. It includes organisms that share external similarities and are capable of successful interbreeding.
There are currently more than 12,000 identified ant species in the world. Estimates suggest that there are 10,000 more that have to be discovered.
What Type of Animals are Ants?
Ants are insects. They’re classified under the class Insecta due to their physical characteristics. Like other insects, ants have 3 body part segments, 6 legs, and sometimes 2 pairs of wings.
Are Ants the Smallest Animals?
Ants are small but they’re far from being the tiniest animals. Many other insects like delicate wasps are significantly smaller. These wasps are nearly 400x smaller than the typical ant and almost just as wide as human hair. They make ants look like giants. 
Are Ants the Strongest Animals?
Ants are among the strongest of animals in terms of relative strength. They’re capable of carrying 100x times their own weight. To put that into perspective, that’s equal to an average human carrying 2 elephants.
Yet even then, ants are not the strongest of all animals. Dung beetles, for example, are way stronger. These beetles can pull more than 1000x times their own body weight, 10x more than ants.
When it comes to absolute strength, ants are no match. Even we humans are stronger than ants then, and let’s not even talk about whales or gorillas.
Are Ants Useful Animals?
It’s sometimes easy to dismiss ants as useless pests. However, ants actually provide us and other organisms with a great number of benefits. In fact, ecologists consider them to be keystone species. They contribute largely to environmental diversity, productivity, and nutrient and energy flow.
To learn more about how ants are useful, read this article on whether ants are beneficial.
To sum it all up, ants are animals. They’re multicellular eukaryotes that possess the characteristics under the kingdom Animalia. They have sensory organs, are capable of movement, rely on other organisms for energy, and respire aerobically.