Ants are arthropods. They feature all the characteristics that classify animals as arthropods which thus makes them a part of the largest phylum of the animal kingdom.
In this article we’ll discuss the characteristics that classify arthropods and determine why ants fit into the phylum Arthropoda.
What Are Arthropods?
Arthropods refer to the members of phylum Arthropoda, the largest phylum in the animal kingdom. The group includes a variety of animals such as insects, spiders, lobsters, crabs, and centipedes. All in all they represent 84 percent of all known species and inhabit every possible habitat including land, sea, and sky.
They play a major role in maintaining ecosystems as they help with pollination, decompose waste and help in the formation of humus, and some even serve as our food.
What Classifies As Arthropods?
As with any taxonomic classification, arthropods are grouped based on shared characteristics. These characteristics are as follows:
- Invertebrates: Arthropods are invertebrates, meaning they don’t have vertebral columns or spines. In fact, arthropods don’t have any bones at all.
- Chitin-Exoskeletons: In lieu of bones, arthropods have external skeletons (exoskeletons) made of extremely resistant chitin. This exoskeleton not only supports and protects their bodies, but it also regulates water loss and prevents dessication.
- Segmented Bodies: Most arthropods have segmented bodies divided in three main parts – the head, thorax, and abdomen. Each of these parts are specialized for different functions. The head for example, houses the mouth and sensory organs. The thorax, or the middle section, contains the legs and other parts used for locomotion. And finally, the abdomen contains vital organ systems. Note however, that for some arthropods the head and thorax are combined into one section called the cephalothorax.
- Appendages On At Least One Segment: Arthropods have at least one appendage on any of their three main body parts. These may be legs or modified appendages such as antennae and mouthparts which they use for feeding, sensory reception, and movement.
- Jointed Legs: Finally, arthropods have jointed legs which are specialized to function alongside the exoskeleton. These legs are flexible and have great range of movement to compensate for the exoskeleton’s rigidity.
Why Are Ants Arthropods?
Ants are classified as arthropods simply because they have shared characteristics with the other members of the group.
- Ants Are Invertebrates With Chitin-Exoskeletons: Like other arthropods, ants don’t have bones and have exoskeletons made of chitin instead. This exoskeleton is composed of two layers, a thin outer layer which helps maintain water balance and a tough inner layer which supports and protects their bodies from physical harm.
- Ants Have Three Main Body Parts: Ants have segmented bodies divided into three main body parts. As with other arthropods, their heads contain important sensory organs such as the antennae which they use to communicate, touch and smell. Their thoraxes house their legs and in some cases wings. And finally, their abdomens, also known as the gaster, contain their reproductive parts and other vital organs such as their hearts.
- Ants Have Jointed Legs And Other Appendages: Ants have different appendages in their bodies. For one, they have three pairs of legs which as mentioned are attached to the thorax. These legs are jointed and flexible and they allow ants to walk and climb at astounding speeds. Aside from that, their heads contain modified appendages such as the antennae and mandibles (mouthparts which they use to feel and eat, respectively.
Are Ants Animals?
Yes they are. Ants are animals because they’re multicellular eukaryotes that have the ability to move, rely on other sources or organisms for food, have specialized sensory organs, and breathe in oxygen to perform their metabolic processes.
Are Ants Insects?
Ants are members of the class Insecta, a class under the phylum Arthropoda. They’re grouped together alongside other six-legged arthropods such as beetles, bees, butterflies, wasps, and fleas.
Are Ants Bugs?
No they are not. The term bug is often misused to refer to insects but in actuality not all insects are bugs. Instead, bugs belong to the order Hemiptera, an order under class Insecta. It’s characterized by insects with sucking mouthparts, which are different from the mandibles that ants have.
Are Ants Reptiles?
While they have some similarities such as being cold-blooded, ants are very much different from reptiles. Instead of chitin-exoskeletons, reptiles have scales instead. And while ants are invertebrates, reptiles have bones and a vertebral column.
Summary: Are Ants Arthropods?
Ants are arthropods because they share characteristics with other members of the group. They’re invertebrates with segmented bodies, chitin-exoskeletons, and jointed appendages.
Together with other arthropods like spiders, centipedes, and crabs, ants represent the largest phylum under the animal kingdom.