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By the Oligocene and Miocene, ants had come to represent 20–40% of all insects found in major fossil deposits.

Of the species that lived in the Eocene epoch, around one in 10 genera survive to the present.

The only places lacking indigenous ants are Antarctica and a few remote or inhospitable islands.More than 12,000 species are currently known (with upper estimates of the potential existence of about 22,000) (see the article List of ant genera), with the greatest diversity in the tropics.Taxonomic studies continue to resolve the classification and systematics of ants.They belong to the sub-order Isoptera within the order Blattodea.Termites are more closely related to cockroaches and mantids.

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Sanskrit vamrah, Latin formīca, Greek μύρμηξ mýrmēx, Old Church Slavonic mraviji, Old Irish moirb, Old Norse maurr, Dutch mier.