Do Ants Have Lungs? (How Do They Breathe??)

Ants live in tiny underground tunnels, which without a doubt contain not as much oxygen as the aboveground world outside we move around in. What does that mean for the anatomy of ants and the way they live? Do ants have the same internal organs mammals do? Do they even breathe?  

Do ants have lungs? No, ants do not have lungs, and neither do other insects, but that does not mean that they do not breathe! Since ants are tiny in size, they only need a small amount of oxygen so they breathe through a series of holes located on the sides of their bodies which are called spiracles. 

The spiracles lead to the tracheae, a network of tiny tubes that transport the oxygen to the tissues that use it, as opposed to how breathing works in most animals where blood is used to transport oxygen. Ants are capable of opening and closing their spiracles – for example, to protect themselves when falling into water – but they do not actively draw air in and out like we do when we breathe.

Their “breathing” is mostly a byproduct of them moving around. Since ants do need so little oxygen this means that they cannot be suffocated.

What Does The Body Of An Ant Consist Of? 

An ant wears its skeleton on the outside – this is called an exoskeleton, as opposed to an endoskeleton, an internal skeleton like for example us humans have. This exoskeleton is made of a hard, water-proof material called chitin. 

The body of any insect consists of three segments: the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. In ants, these are called the head, the mesosoma, and the gaster. 

In the segment of the head, you will find two compound eyes at the sides of the head. These consist of hundreds of lenses that work together to form a single image in the brain. Some ants also have three simple eyes in the middle of their head. These are called ocelli and consist of a lot of ommatidia (eye facets) that distinguish between light and dark.

Do Ants Have Lungs
Do Ants Have Lungs

RELATED: Do Ants Have Brains? (Are they intelligent?)

With their antennae, ants can detect pheromones which help them to differentiate between friends and enemies. They also use their antennae to communicate by touch. The antennae of an ant are bent in the middle like a human elbow, which is unique to ants as opposed to other insects!

Their strong mandibles are used for the biting, cutting, and carrying of food. Since ants do not have grasping forelegs, it is their mandibles that would form the equivalent to human hands. The eyes and mandibles of an ant are evolved perfectly to fit the lifestyle of an ant and can give vital clues as to how their life looks like – whether they maybe live underground where they do not need to see, what they eat, and other questions. 

An ant’s middle segment, the mesosoma, contains its vital and reproductive organs. Ants in the subfamily of Formicidae have an acidopore that emits acid when threatened. This pore is also found in the gaster. The spiracles mentioned above, too.

RELATED: Do Ants Have Bones? (Are they similar to us??)

An ant’s nervous system consists of one long spinal cord running from its head to the rear end and branching out into the single body parts. All six legs that insects have are attached to the middle segment, which is full of muscles that make it possible for the tiny but strong ants to walk long distances at a pretty far speed, compared to their size. At the end of each leg, there is a hooked claw that enables the ant to climb and to hang onto seemingly smooth objects like walls or furniture. 

Do Ants Have Lungs
Do Ants Have Lungs

The mesosoma is connected to the gaster, the third and final segment, by either just a petiole or a petiole as well as a post-petiole. This is an aspect that distinguishes an ant’s anatomy from that of other insects! This flexible junction allows the ant to bend its rear end forward to sting or spray acid. Aside from its chemical weaponry, the heart of an ant is also contained in the gaster. The heart of an ant is a long tube that pumps its colorless blood to the head and back again. 

Do Ants Have Lungs
Do Ants Have Lungs