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What Kind of Ant is RICK AND MORTY’s Million Ants Made Of?

You may have a few questions after this week’s episode of Rick and Morty. What will become of Supernova? Is the whole show just a reflection of ourselves? Is Noob-Noob related to Mr. Poopybutthole? All completely valid and critically important questions. But being a science nerd, and this being a science fiction show, I had another burning question for “Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender”: is there an ant large enough to make a man out of a million of them?

The ex-Vindicators hero known as “Million Ants” is a collection of exactly 1,000,000 ants controlled by a telepathic queen that sits inside the swarm. It’s a fun concept and probably a dig at Marvels’ Ant-Man, but the hero is practically begging for me to science him.

There are over 12,000 species of ant, a breadth of biology that includes big and small, worker and soldier, leaf-cutter and bullet. Species can vary greatly in terms of mass, but if you average it all out, most ants wouldn’t be more than a few milligrams. (And no, all the ants on Earth probably don’t weigh as much as all the humans.) What this means is that if you want to build a man-sized hero out of the average ant, you’re going to fall short. If the average man is somewhere between 70 and 80 kilograms, it would take upwards of seven million ants to stack up.

Don’t worry, there are much bigger ants.

Camponotus gigas is a giant forest ant native to Southeast Asia — one of the largest ants on Earth. According to this 1998 paper on the species, these insects can weigh as much as 140 milligrams, more than ten times the average.

Divide the weight of the average man by the weight of a C. gigas ant and you get less than a million ants required to make a man-sized, wriggling, stinging mass. Still not quite there. If we assume the hero is supposed to be a bit beefier than the average man, and assume some variance in the weights of C. gigas, the numbers finally work out — there are indeed ants large enough to make Million Ants possible. And like Million Ants, C. gigas couldn’t successfully mate with a collapsing star.

Want more Rick and Morty science? Check out my episode of Because Science below, and then head over to YouTube to catch my science panel with the creators of the show.

Images: Adult Swim; Bernard DUPONT

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