Humanity kicks the bucket. Which species is the next to reign?

Okay, here’s the scenario. Mankind has been wiped out by a nasty virulent disease contracted from a dirty telephone, leaving nothing but big concrete buildings and billions of rusting cars.

If we give it a couple of billion years, which species is the next one to take over? For the sake of argument all other simians become ex-simians as well, since apelike beings would be too obvious an answer.

My vote goes to the elephant. Mankind had three main things going for it; intelligence, dexterity, and language. Elephants have a long lifespan, are quite intelligent (these two seem to be interconnected) and have their trunks to manipulate all kinds of objects. With a bit of adaption they might even use that thing to evolve a more complicated language.

The problem would be why they would evolve. Mankind had a lot of natural predators that kept the population down and ensured only the fittest survived. (thereby ensuring their own extinction, there’s some nice irony in there.) Elephants, in general, don’t really have that. When animals see a herd of massive, grey, pissed-off mammals stampeding their way, they tend to flee.

Anyway, that’s my short answer, and I’m terribly interested in who you think is the best contestant.

What makes you think that the reigning species would be anything different from what it is now? Most bacteria don’t depend on humans at all. I’m sure that, even without humans, there’d still be plenty else to rot.

What Chronos said. And even if you confine yourself to macroscopic species, I’m not sure that humans really ARE reigning over the Earth. Cockroaches (okay, that’s a group of species, but still) are at least as widely distributed as we are.

So the OP is a trifle anthropocentric.

I think the OP is asking “what will be the next intelligent species, in the sense that humans are intelligent.” There’s no reason why there should be one, but I’ll nominate the Squid, because that would be cool. Also, that’s what the Discovery Channell suggested.

Well we do seem to have a really favorable kill ratio.

It would probably be a mammal. However it would be fascinating to see a world run by super intelligent octopusses. They’re already fairly intelligent.

Ants have a pretty firm grip on dominance as is.

I’m voting for critters with good manual dexterity. Bow to the Raccoon!
Plus, cute!


Or, failing that, C.H.U.D.s.

No kidding. They invaded my cereal box the other day.

The worst part: I didn’t notice the stream of them until after I had poured myself, and was eating, a bowl. :eek:

If you wait a couple of billion years, I doubt the world will still be habitable by life as we know it at that point. The sun will have swollen considerably and it will be getting pretty hot on Earth.

Does this make you feel any better? :wink:

I don’t think it would take a couple billion years–we share the world with (at least) one other intelligent species.

Dolphins have their own language and apparently even have individual names.

Cite? All the recent stuff I’ve read about dolphins has their intelligence estimated as being roughly the same as that of wolves and other social predators…clever animals, but not intelligent like great apes. Their vocalizations are about as complex as those of some birds.

Moreover, I can’t believe they’re going to get much smarter without fingers. Manipulative appendanges and increased creativity go together in evolution, I 'spect.


Unless elephant’s trunks divide into two branches. Dexterity depends on being able to hold an object while you do something to or with it.

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But anyway, my vote is for sloths. Cuz, like, nothing would ever get done, man!

What is an evolution ringtone? Dawkins reading from Darwin?

My vote is on domestic dogs and cats, as well as the aforementioned raccoons. Small mammals, with many natural predators so intelligence in the way humans have it (complex problem solving, teamwork) would be an asset. Raccoons might be the most logical choice since they’re omnivorous so would be able to forage and later farm, and wouldn’t pick their prey clean. I could see a battle between many varieties of small mammals with the most versatile one (so, probably not cats, unless they start digesting plant matter better) coming out on top. Hands would come later, though none of these animals would probably wind up 100% bipedal. When you think about it, bipedality is sort of strange.

I don’t doubt that dolphins and elephants could have the intelligence potential of a great ape, but their physiology is not suited to building a civilization as we know it (buildings, writing, etc). And they don’t have the biological imperative to evolve hands, paired trunks, etc. Neither one has many natural predators aside from man.

There’s a lot in that page that contradicts your claim, and most of the cites are from studies in the 60s and 70s, when a lot of scientists did believe dolphins might be intelligent. There’s not nearly as much dolphin research as there was because none of the studies could show them to be any smarter than dogs.

Besides, if dolphins were intelligent and could communicate novel ideas, why would they keep getting caught in fishnets? The net may be invisible to their sonar, but the multitude of entangled fish are not. You’d think they’d pass on the idea “When you see a bunch of fish suspended incapacitated in the middle of the water, avoid that area!”. I know an invisible “net” that caught all forms of wildlife would not catch many humans, even the most primitive stone age man would figure it out and start stealing from the net or driving prey into it, and tell all his friends.