The last species on Earth

On the DiscoveryChannel’s Land of the Mammoths there is a side segment on the possibility of cloning one (conclusion: not possible). A biologist who collects and freezes DNA from endangered species said something to the effect of:

“If we don’t do something now, man will be the only species left on Earth.” and I thought to myself “pure hyperbole.”

I don’t think we could kill off all other species on Earth even if we dedicated ourselves to the effort, but I’m not a biologist or any kind of ologist so this is pure conjecture on my part.

So my questions are:
Could we wipe out every other species on Earth?
How about every large land mammal?
All the fishes and crustaceans?
Have extinctions accelerated exponentially in the last million years or so?

IANAS (Scientist)

But considering that there are bacteria living around thermal ocean vents that are too hot for us to approach, the only way we could kill all life on this planet is do something like hurl it into the sun. I have no idea how we would go about doing that.

IANAS either, but it doesn’t take one to figure there is NO WAY we could possibly kill every other species on Earth because we still need other species to live.

We are still dependent on other species for soooooo many things. Don’t forget there are organisms which live INSIDE you too which help you digest food, and others which live on you doing God-knows-what. Many of these you cannot live without.

I think we could (easily) kill every large land mammal though. That one is do-able.

Every fish? No, not without killing ourselves in the process… think of the pollution we’d have to dole out - and that is pollution not just in the shallows; we’d have to pollute way down there in the depths of the pacific.

The best bet would be large-scale air and water pollution… it would be horrible ----> it actually makes me sick to think about it.

Let me say IMVHO that I don’t personally believe that we have significantly speeded up the extinction rate. Don’t forget, animals become extinct every day for reasons beyond our influence. Also, new ones start. I don’t think much of what we do influences anything… I think many people are plain-old egotistical to think they can affect the world in any large-scale way.

Whoever the last species is, I have one minor request: please turn out the lights before you leave. Thanks. :slight_smile:

I don’t know about you, kemo sabe, but I just made a list of the things I eat, and then removed from the list everything that was another life form or forms (with or without subsequent processing), and when I was done there weren’t nothing there no more.

Unless we can pick up the art of photosynthesis between then and now, I’d say we was way up Shit Creek sans paddle in the absense of some other species to munch on.

Stop answering the easy question!

As I said in the OP, I’m sure it is pure hyperbole to say man will be the only species on Earth. But is man really killing off all of the animals that are not beneficial to him and those that compete with him?

There is a lot of effort going into saving endangered species (like the lady freezing DNA). How much can man take credit (or blame) for when it comes to killing off other species?

Have species been dying off at incredible rates since man came along? Or since, say, the Industrial Revolution? Will it ever be down to just us and only the animals that we eat and those that fly too low under our radar for us to notice?

This article on The Sixth Extinction will give you a good discussion of the factors involved in the current biodiversity crisis. And this page provides a ton of links.

Those are some eye-opening links Colibri.

Looks like it will be us, our food and roaches in the future.

Until, of course, we disappear as well.

Then, I guess, a brief time will pass - no more than ten million years - and the Earth will be repopulated with a huge variety of bizarre, wonderful beings.

This whole “mammal dominance” thing was getting old, anyway.

I still enjoy it. Anyway, who’s to say mammals are dominant? Plant species cover more ground than all of us combined. Plants sustain all animal life. Insects and bacteria outnumber us without even blinking (literally and figuratively :slight_smile: ). Mammals certainly aren’t dominant in the oceans (big and smart, but not running the show)…which cover about 75% of the Earth’s surface.

(1) No, as has been stated.
(2) Probably. Aren’t most (all besides humans?) already endangered?
(3) Tougher one. I don’t think the implications of that scenario are understood.
(4) The Sixth Extinction link is probably a good source of info for that…but I’m still reading it. My general impression is that extinctions have accelerated in the past few centuries, not the past millions of years.

Probably the first extinction event that can plausibly be attributed to humans is the disappearance of the Australian megafauna (giant kangaroos; the Diprotodon - a wombat-like animal the size of a rhino; the big marsupial carnivores) coincident with the arrival of the aborigines c. 30,000 years ago. Then the extinction of the New World megafauna (mammoths, giant ground sloths, horses, etc.) with the arrival of the Clovis big-game hunting culture about 12,000 years BP.

There have been a number of other blips - the spread of Polynesians and Micronesians through the Pacific islands, the Age of Discovery and the introduction by Europeans of rats and predators to many remote islands.

But what has really thrown things into high gear is the near-exponential human population explosion that has taken place in the past century and the associated massive conversion of natural habitats to agriculture - or wasteland.

For birds, at least 90 species have become extinct since the first historically documented extinction (the Dodo) in 1681. At present, around 180 species are considered to be critically endangered and likely to become extinct within a few decades. Nearly 1,200 species - 12% of the world total -are considered to be threatened to some extent. And all these figures are rising fast.

I worked for three years for the New Zealand Wildlife Service, with some of the rarest birds in the world. Many species are just hanging by a thread. The whole natural ecosystem there has been devastated.

It’s enough to make you weep. At least, it does me. Especially when I see the smoke rising from the rainforests here in Panama as they are converted to pasture for scrawny cattle.