Can ants save the world from itself?

Research from Arizona State University suggests that ants might be trapping carbon dioxide, hence stopping it from being released into the atmosphere.

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Get out of my way. I'm trying to save the world. Berardo Segura/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET
I understand that with our flagrant recklessness, selfishness, and general ignorance, we are boiling the world into calamity.

Somewhere, though, there might be tiny-minded creatures that are trying to redress our imbalance.

Research recently published in Geology offers a tantalizing notion: that ants may be chilling the Earth.

It's not that they necessarily feel it's heating beyond comfortable temperatures. It's more that they have their lives, which happen to involve hiding carbon dioxide.

The study, entitled "Ants As A Powerful Biotic Agent Of Olivine And Plagioclase Dissolution," offers the tantalizing notion that ants may be hoarding calcium and magnesium, turning these elements into limestone and, as they do so, trapping carbon dioxide.

One possibility is that the ants lick grains of sand and then place them on their nest walls. As they do this, carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere.

Clearly, there are many ants in the world. If they all indulge in such behavior, there could be a mass effect.

Ronald Dorn, a geologist at Arizona State University, explained it like this to Live Science: "We don't know if they are licking it or pooping it, or if it's bacteria in the ant's gut or the fungi growing in the colonies."

Dorn isn't someone who spends his days studying ants. He describes himself as a "weathering nerd."

How odd it might be if ants played such a significant role in the breaking down of minerals that quietly, unobtrusively and not even deliberately, they saved the world from itself.

I can see Pixar making that movie. Can't you?

And there could be a sequel in another study CNET learned about Tuesday starring ants helping researchers develop drugs to combat cancer and even fungus.

 

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