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What species would become dominant on Earth if humans died out?

Little Shop of Horrors
University of Stirling
Creative Commons

Audrey Two
Stephen J. Gould
Luc Bussiere

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a Planet of the Apes
The Planet of the Apes
the Burgess Shale

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The New York Times
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After all, humans are very likely to disappear long before the sun expands into a red giant and exterminates all living things from the Earth.Assuming that we don’t extinguish all other life as we disappear (an unlikely feat in spite of our unique propensity for driving extinction), history tells us to expect some pretty fundamental changes when humans are no longer the planet’s dominant animal species.Mark your calendar for 15:00 CET on November 11So if we were given the chance to peek forward in time at the Earth some 50m years after our disappearance, what would we find? The Planet of the Apes imagines that our closest primate relatives could develop speech and adopt our technology if we gave them the time and space to do so.But non-human primate societies are unlikely to inherit our dominance of the earth because the apes are likely to precede us to extinction. In fact, any extinction event that affects humans will probably be most dangerous to organisms that share our basic physiological requirements.Even if humans succumb to a global pandemic that affects relatively few other mammals, the great apes are precisely the species that are most at risk of contracting any new diseases that drive us from the Earth.Will another, more distant, relative (primate, mammal, or otherwise) develop intelligence and human-like society? Consequently, it’s a profound mistake to imagine that our successors are likely to be especially intelligent or social creatures, or that they will be capable of speech, or adept with human technology.So what can we safely speculate about the dominant species, some 50m years after humanity?

As said here by The Conversation