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  #1  
Old 07-27-2011, 11:06 AM
StarvingButStrong StarvingButStrong is offline
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Most numerous species of mammal? Bird? Reptile?

Question is due to idle chitchat over a meal.

Which species of (X) has the most living creatures on earth?

We mostly settled on rats and pigeons (due to their association with humans) and garter snakes (mostly just because we'd all seen them everywhere we'd lived.)

Any better guesses? Or even <gasp> authoritative answers?
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  #2  
Old 07-27-2011, 12:21 PM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is offline
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According to many sources, the most numerous species of bird is the Red-billed Quelea.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-billed_Quelea
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  #3  
Old 07-27-2011, 12:28 PM
Giles Giles is online now
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Originally Posted by engineer_comp_geek View Post
According to many sources, the most numerous species of bird is the Red-billed Quelea.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-billed_Quelea
No, they are beaten by the chicken (worldwide population about 24 billion).

There would be very few mammal species that beat Homo sapiens' 7 billion.
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Old 07-27-2011, 12:39 PM
Blake Blake is offline
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Originally Posted by StarvingButStrong View Post
We mostly settled on rats and pigeons (due to their association with humans)
Pigeons are widespread, but not very abundant. Even a large city probably only has a few thousand birds these days, and at their peak maybe a few hundreds of thousands. In the wild a single flock of Quelea numbers in the tens of millions, and until just 50 years ago they outnumbered humanity. Even the common house sparrow would outnumber pigeons by orders of magnitude, and there are approximately 3 chickens for every human in the world right now.

Pigeons just ain't in the running for most abundant bird. I'm not sure whether sparrows or chickens would be the most abundant, but my hunch would be sparrows.

Similarly, while rats are widespread, they aren't very abundant. For every brown rat in the world there are something like 40 house mice. However getting reliable estimates of rodent numbers is difficult because populations fluctuate so fast. Australia is notorious for rodent plagues, both native species and house mice, and a single event may comprise billions of animals, which are all dead a few months later. So the most abundant rodent on Earth today may not be the same species as tomorrow.

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and garter snakes (mostly just because we'd all seen them everywhere we'd lived.)
Any reptile species from temperate regions would be highly unlikely to be the most abundant, simply because it is a temperate species.

As with rodents, populations are going to fluctuate wildly. At the height of the hatching season, the populations of many species will be hundreds of times higher than during the rest of the year.

The most sensible place to look would be for a tropical species that is widely naturalised around the world. My bet would by the house gecko. Pretty much every building in the tropical and sub-tropical world is home to at least half a dozen, giving them a population in the tens if not hundreds of billions.
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  #5  
Old 07-27-2011, 12:42 PM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Giles View Post
No, they are beaten by the chicken (worldwide population about 24 billion).
Interesting. I wonder if a lot of sources don't count the chicken because its population is artificially high (we breed them for food).

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There would be very few mammal species that beat Homo sapiens' 7 billion.
I poked around on the net for a bit, and it seems that rats and mice are both pretty close to humans. Some estimates put rats slightly above humans, but the most authoritative source I found (the world health organization) had humans in the lead, though not by much.
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  #6  
Old 07-27-2011, 01:03 PM
septimus septimus is online now
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IIRC, there are many more bacteria in even a healthy person than the number of all the vertebrates on the planet.

I'd prefer to explore the question based on total mass of the individuals of a species, rather than the number of individuals.
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  #7  
Old 07-27-2011, 04:09 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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IIRC, there are many more bacteria in even a healthy person than the number of all the vertebrates on the planet.
Yes, but those bacteria come in myriad different species.

And the Wikipedia page on the quelea claims that they're the most abundant wild bird species, so the claim is not in conflict with chickens.

Blake, sparrows are certainly abundant in North America, but how broad is the geographic range of the most abundant species?
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Old 07-27-2011, 04:21 PM
njtt njtt is offline
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Originally Posted by engineer_comp_geek View Post
Interesting. I wonder if a lot of sources don't count the chicken because its population is artificially high (we breed them for food).
Everybody knows that you shouldn't count yer chickens.
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  #9  
Old 07-27-2011, 05:21 PM
septimus septimus is online now
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
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IIRC, there are many more bacteria in even a healthy person than the number of all the vertebrates on the planet.
Yes, but those bacteria come in myriad different species.
Misleading. I'm not going to spend a lot of time Googling this, but optimallivingfoods.com/my-bacteria.html shows
Quote:
There are 500 different species of bacteria that live in and on you that total about 100 trillion bacteria.
If the 500 populations were equal (they're not!) that would still be 200 billion bacteria per species in an average human.

All off-topic of course. I was just presenting an extreme example of why I think total biomass is a better indicator of a species' size than number of individuals.

Last edited by septimus; 07-27-2011 at 05:22 PM..
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  #10  
Old 07-27-2011, 07:46 PM
Blake Blake is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Blake, sparrows are certainly abundant in North America, but how broad is the geographic range of the most abundant species?
Huge. As in substantial portions of all continents. This is why I'm inclined to give the edge to sparrows over chickens. While chickens are widely farmed, most chicken facilities will be supporting an equivalent number of sparrows on the spilled feed. Large flocks of wild sparrows also exist in cities alongside pigeons, however unlike pigeons, which are mostly restricted to inner-city urban areas, they are also common in suburban and semi-rural parts of the city as well as natural forests and woodlands.
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  #11  
Old 07-27-2011, 07:49 PM
dracoi dracoi is offline
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All off-topic of course. I was just presenting an extreme example of why I think total biomass is a better indicator of a species' size than number of individuals.
I think the question that must be asked is "better for what?" Biomass might be the best measure for issues, but numbers of individuals for other issues. For example, if you're measuring the likelihood of extinction, individuals are more important than biomass. Individuals are a better (though not perfect) measure for biodiversity as well. If we're talking long-term survival of a species, 10 whales is not as healthy a population as 10 million birds, even if they weigh the same.
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  #12  
Old 07-27-2011, 08:04 PM
Blake Blake is offline
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Originally Posted by septimus View Post
I'd prefer to explore the question based on total mass of the individuals of a species, rather than the number of individuals.
Then you should probably start you own thread, because that's not what the Op wants in this thread.

To highlight how much difference this makes: 1 billion cattle at ~200kg each = 200 billion kilos of beef. 7 billion mice at ~20g each = 1/10th of a billion kg of Chinese takeaway.
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  #13  
Old 07-27-2011, 08:34 PM
Suburban Plankton Suburban Plankton is offline
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Everybody knows that you shouldn't count yer chickens.
Nah, it's OK. We're only counting the ones that have already hatched.
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  #14  
Old 07-27-2011, 08:47 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake View Post
Huge. As in substantial portions of all continents. This is why I'm inclined to give the edge to sparrows over chickens. While chickens are widely farmed, most chicken facilities will be supporting an equivalent number of sparrows on the spilled feed. Large flocks of wild sparrows also exist in cities alongside pigeons, however unlike pigeons, which are mostly restricted to inner-city urban areas, they are also common in suburban and semi-rural parts of the city as well as natural forests and woodlands.
I don't believe the House Sparrow is really in the running vs domestic chickens. Although it has a wide naturalized range, it's not all that common in most of it. In North America they aren't found significantly in forest or woodland. In Latin America they are quite scarce in parts of the indicated range (e.g. they exist in Panama but I wouldn't put the national population at over a few thousand, and that's mainly restricted to urban areas; I can't recall ever seeing one at a chicken farm.). They have been declining in the UK; I'm not sure of their status in the rest of Europe. It's nearly absent in China and southeast Asia, and even where it occurs in Africa it is mostly confined to cities by related competitors that occupy wilder areas.
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  #15  
Old 07-27-2011, 11:24 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Huh, I knew that there were sparrows all over the place, but I hadn't realized that was all the same species.
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  #16  
Old 07-27-2011, 11:50 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Huh, I knew that there were sparrows all over the place, but I hadn't realized that was all the same species.
There are lots of species that are called sparrows, but not all of them are in the same family. The bird we are talking about is the House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, introduced into North America from England (and once known here as the "English Sparrow") which is in the family Passeridae. The native North American birds known as sparrows are in the family Emberizidae (buntings).

Last edited by Colibri; 07-27-2011 at 11:51 PM..
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  #17  
Old 07-28-2011, 05:22 AM
mac_bolan00 mac_bolan00 is offline
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domestication and farming messed up the contest. i'd like an estimate of the most numerous, say, before 5,000 bc. but staying at the present, what's more numerous, sparrows or african quilas?

Last edited by mac_bolan00; 07-28-2011 at 05:25 AM..
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  #18  
Old 07-28-2011, 06:41 AM
Alessan Alessan is online now
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Originally Posted by septimus View Post
I'd prefer to explore the question based on total mass of the individuals of a species, rather than the number of individuals.
It's estimated that 25% of all land animals on earth, by mass, are ants.
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Old 07-28-2011, 06:53 AM
BDoors BDoors is offline
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It's estimated that 25% of all land animals on earth, by mass, are ants.
Many different species, though. Largest single species by biomass is probably Antarctic krill, or maybe domestic cattle or homo sapiens sapiens.
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  #20  
Old 07-28-2011, 07:03 AM
Sailboat Sailboat is offline
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If we're talking about the past, would passenger pigeons be in the running?
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  #21  
Old 07-28-2011, 07:09 AM
Sailboat Sailboat is offline
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Originally Posted by Alessan View Post
It's estimated that 25% of all land animals on earth, by mass, are ants.
Biologist E. O Wilson said that if you took all the animal life on earth and rendered it into a chemical soup, the dominant chemical would be formic acid (from ants).
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  #22  
Old 07-28-2011, 10:03 AM
StarvingButStrong StarvingButStrong is offline
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Originally Posted by Blake View Post
Then you should probably start you own thread, because that's not what the Op wants in this thread.


.

S'okay. I'm good with the answers suggested above (humans/chickens/geckos) for my question, so AFAIC the thread may mutate at will.
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  #23  
Old 07-28-2011, 02:06 PM
septimus septimus is online now
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Originally Posted by StarvingButStrong View Post
S'okay. I'm good with the answers suggested above (humans/chickens/geckos) for my question, so AFAIC the thread may mutate at will.
JFTR, I did start the suggest thread. So far response borders on apathetic.
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  #24  
Old 07-31-2011, 12:50 AM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Biologist E. O Wilson said that if you took all the animal life on earth and rendered it into a chemical soup, the dominant chemical would be formic acid (from ants).
What would the soup taste like, sort of? I don't think its taste would be acidic (whatever the formic acidic tastes like). The dominant chemicals in so many of our foods do not ultimately provide their taste dominantly to the finished taste.
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  #25  
Old 07-31-2011, 01:30 PM
Lust4Life Lust4Life is offline
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Pure speculation, but what about pets ?

There must be a good few cats and dogs all around the world.
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  #26  
Old 07-31-2011, 02:05 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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I'd expect the dominant chemical in biomass soup would be one of the amino acids. Or rather, no one amino acid would be dominant (though the plurality ingredient would still probably be one of them), but the amino acids collectively would dominate over everything else.
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  #27  
Old 07-31-2011, 05:52 PM
Blake Blake is offline
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I'd expect the dominant chemical in biomass soup would be one of the amino acids. Or rather, no one amino acid would be dominant (though the plurality ingredient would still probably be one of them), but the amino acids collectively would dominate over everything else.
Starch would dominate any amino acid both in terms of weight and number of molecules. Starch makes up about 10% of the weight of plants. Protein makes up about 15%, and as you note, protein is composed of multiple amino acids, so no one could make up more than 1% by weight.

And since plant biomass outweighs animal biomass ~1000 fold, starch is going to outweigh any amino acid by a factor of about 10, 000.
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Old 07-31-2011, 06:20 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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So it would make you fat.
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  #29  
Old 07-31-2011, 06:25 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Ah, yes. I should have made clearer that I was referring to the same soup that Sailboat mentioned, composed only of animal biomass. Although for plants, I'd expect it to be cellulose, not starch (unless you're counting cellulose as a starch).

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And since plant biomass outweighs animal biomass ~1000 fold, starch is going to outweigh any amino acid by a factor of about 10, 000.
You might want to double-check your numbers, there. Plants outweighing animals by so much basically just means that you can completely ignore animals and just use the plant figures, which would give us a ratio of starch to most common amino in the vicinity of 10 to 1.

And strictly speaking, of course, starch and aminos will both be well behind water. But we know what he meant.
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